Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher is among the leaders scheduled to participate in a panel discussion convened by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on the topic of the NC Connect bond Monday, March 14, on the campus of the University of North Carolina Asheville.
McCrory has organized numerous discussions and briefing events across the state in recent weeks to provide information about the NC Connect bond initiative that will be before North Carolina’s voters on Tuesday, March 15, the day after the forum in Asheville.
If approved, the $2 billion statewide proposal would provide $110 million in funding to replace WCU’s outdated Natural Sciences Building, part of a total of $980 million from the bond for University of North Carolina system institutions.
In addition the proposal includes $350 million for the North Carolina Community College System; $312 million for local parks, sewer and water infrastructure; $179 million for agricultural research; $100 million for state parks and the N.C. Zoo; and $87.5 million for the National Guard and Public Safety.
Belcher, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College President Dennis King are expected to discuss the benefits that the bond issue would provide to their respective campuses. In addition to replacement of WCU’s Natural Sciences Building, passage of the proposal would mean $21.1 million for UNC Asheville for renovation and repair of two academic buildings, Owen and Carmichael halls; and $5.4 million for A-B Tech for repairs and renovations for several buildings.
Also scheduled to participate in the panel are Drew Heath, state budget director, and Major General Greg Lusk of the North Carolina National Guard.
State officials say approval of the bond proposal would not result in any tax increases and would allow the state’s strong credit ratings to remain unaffected, thanks in part to historically low interest rates and the fact that North Carolina has been rapidly retiring its existing debt.
WCU’s Natural Sciences Building needs to be replaced, Belcher said, so that the university can provide more graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to meet growing regional workforce demands in WNC in health care, high-tech manufacturing and agricultural and natural products development.
When the current science facility was built, WCU had only 15 nursing majors and no engineering majors; today, the university has roughly 2,300 students majoring in nursing and other health and human science programs, and almost 600 in technology and engineering programs, he said.
McCrory visited the WCU campus last May during the early stages of drafting the proposal that has evolved into the NC Connect bond proposal, calling the Natural Sciences Building a “D-minus building” that needs to be replaced.
For more information about the bond issue, visit the website www.ConnectNCForHigherEd.com.
By Bill Studenc