A week ago, we asked readers how they would spend $50 million in bond fund across six categories. They responded with gusto – over 330 people filled out the survey.

Some caveats

This was obviously not a representative poll. We don’t know who responded, their demographic characteristics, nor even if they live in Chapel Hill. At best, these results reflect funding priorities (in predetermined categories) of a subset of TBB readers.

To keep it simple, I used $50 million as the potential bond amount in the poll.  In actuality, the bond may end up being closer to $44 million because some priority projects may be funded using limited obligation bonds, which don’t require voter approval. But hey, what’s a $6 million difference among friends? (Answer: ~1-2 more cost overruns on the Rosemary St. parking garage.)

The final bond amount and what it will specifically fund has felt like a moving target, and is still somewhat up in the air. The town could borrow more than $44 million if it wanted, or even more than $50 million. Council will be discussing it again on Friday April 26, at which point they are expected to decide the bond amount, what it will fund, and whether it will be placed on the ballot this fall or next.

What did we learn?

For starters, some of you are bad at math, including some who responded affirmatively to the question “Do your selections add up to 100 percent?”

After tossing out responses that did not add up to 100%, we were left with 314 responses. Still, let’s take a second to pause and be grateful that we live in a town where 94% of people can follow instructions.


People want a bond on the fall 2024 ballot

I haven’t seen support like this since Pie Pan tore through the March Radness tournament. 287 respondents want to vote on the bond this fall, while only 20 want to hold off until fall 2025. Why? It’s hard to say for sure. Perhaps people want a splash pad sooner rather than later. Or perhaps people aren’t sure America will still be having elections after 2024.

Town staff and respondents have different priorities

While recognizing that a) the recommended amounts for the bond categories have shifted in recent months, and b) town staff generally know way more than the rest of us  about what, say, a sidewalk or a rooftop solar array costs, I wanted to get a sense of whether our readers have similar spending priorities as the town. I compared the poll results to one set of bond recommendations from town staff (one that proposed a total bond of $46 million). For example, in that scenario, town staff allocated about 5% of the bond to sustainability projects and 5% to greenways. Did poll respondents allocate the funds similarly?

Not quite.

The charts below show the percent of respondents who agreed to allocate roughly the same share of funding to each category as town staff, a lower share, or a higher share.

The biggest disagreement is over funding of fire stations, for which town staff have recommended $15 million in funding, while 97% of respondents want the town to spend less than that amount. And respondents want more money for greenways, sustainability projects, and affordable housing (it’s worth noting that 33 respondents want to spend $0 dollars on affordable housing, which is gross but makes the overall results more credible – thank you to our hate readers, I guess).

While care should be taken to not overstate the meaning of these results, it’s hard not to think town staff and Council are missing the mark a bit in terms of funding what people want the most. We’ll be interested to hear tomorrow’s discussion to see if the funding levels shift and if we’ll see the bond on the ballot this fall.






In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Stephen Whitlow lives in Chapel Hill. Trained as an urban planner at DCRP, he works for a research, evaluation, and technical assistance firm and focuses on the areas of housing affordability, fair housing,...