Wake board moves $142 million library bond referendum closer to ballot

Wake County commissioners have officially kicked off the process to place a $142 million bond referendum for Wake County Public Libraries on the Nov. 5 ballot. This is the first of four required board actions to put the issue before voters in the fall.

"Access to knowledge is not a privilege, but a fundamental right, and this bond initiative represents the board’s continued commitment to fostering lifelong learning for all of our residents,” said Commissioner Vickie Adamson. “By investing in the future of our public libraries, we are ensuring they remain hubs of learning and enrichment for generations to come."

Currently, almost all Wake County residents live within 20 minutes of a Wake County Public Libraries facility. Nearly 99% have a 15-minute travel time, and 84.7% are within 10 minutes of a branch. Projects funded by the proposed bond would bring the percentage of Wake County residents in that 10-minute category up to 87%.

What’s Included?
If approved by voters, the bond would fund:

  • A new community library in Rolesville ($13.3 million). Rolesville, one of our fastest growing communities, is the only municipality in Wake County without a library.
  • A new community library in the Friendship area of Apex ($19.3 million). This library would help meet the needs of the growing population.
  • Replacement of the Athens Drive Community Library ($16.3 million). When the Wake County Public School System renovates Athens Drive High School in 2027, the library will need to be rebuilt.
  • Replacement of the Wendell Community Library ($18.2 million). The smallest library in the system is no longer adequate to serve the rapidly growing Wendell population.
  • Expansion of the Fuquay-Varina Community Library ($12.3 million). In fiscal year 2024, this library has seen the highest circulation of all community libraries — even topping several regional libraries. This will expand the facility from a community library to a regional library.
  • Renovations at the Express Library – Fayetteville Street ($665,000), Green Road Community Library ($3.5 million), Leesville Community Library ($2.8 million), Library Administration Building ($26.5 million), Northeast Regional Library ($3.5 million), Richard B. Harrison Community Library ($1.9 million), Southeast Regional Library ($3.1 million) and Zebulon Community Library ($1.35 million). Projects will focus on aging facilities, system replacements, furniture and other upgrades ($43.3 million total).
  • A new facility ($19.3 million). The board will continue to look at options to address needs throughout Wake County. Considerations include addressing digital equity concerns, the need for a new library in southeast Wake County and providing more services to underserved populations.

Wake County last held a bond referendum for libraries in October 2007 to fund $45 million in renovations, replacements and expansions. This referendum passed with 70% voter approval.

What is a Bond Referendum and What is the Tax Impact?
A bond referendum gives voters the opportunity to decide whether the County may use general obligation bonds to finance these projects. A general obligation bond is backed by the full faith, credit and taxing power of the County and is considered public debt. General obligation bonds carry lower interest rates than other bonds or financing methods. If approved, the County would have seven years from the ballot date to issue the associated GO bonds.

Wake County currently anticipates a .25-cent tax increase (per $100 of assessed valuation) would be necessary in fiscal year 2026 if the bond is approved by voters. Staff would need to reassess and confirm the appropriate tax increase in early 2025 as part of the fiscal year 2026 budget process. It would go into effect July 1, 2025.

What’s Next?
Today’s vote is the first of four required board actions. Additional actions that will be considered by the board are:

  • June 17: The board will vote to introduce the bond order, file sworn statements of debt and disclosure with the clerk and set a public hearing.
  • July 8: Residents can weigh in on the proposed referendum during a public hearing at the board’s 2 p.m. meeting at the Wake County Justice Center. Commissioners will have the opportunity to adopt a resolution calling for the referendum on Nov. 5.
  • Dec. 2: The board will vote on adopting a resolution declaring results of the Nov. 5 referendum.

About Wake County Public Libraries
Wake County currently operates eight regional libraries, 13 community libraries, two special libraries, one bookmobile and one administrative building. In fiscal year 2023, the library system’s circulation topped 10.95 million, and visits soared over 2.62 million. About 21% of Wake County’s population has an active library card.

Press Release