The North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) is in its fourth year of operation and has provided over $36 million in aid to Forsyth County education alone. So far, lottery proceeds have provided $2.6 million for 3,607 need-based college scholarships, $10.2 million for an average of 76 teachers to reduce class sizes in grades K-3, and $5.2 million for More at Four pre-kindergarten programs that have served 1,238 at-risk 4 year olds.
For Forsyth County’s local budget, the most direct impact of the lottery proceeds is the availability of $17.9 million to use for construction of K-12 schools. In order to avoid property tax increases to pay for new schools and renovations, the Board of County Commissioners agreed to designate lottery proceeds towards the payment of debt service associated with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) construction projects approved by voters in the 2006 Education Bond Referendum. Through the end of fiscal year 2009, lottery proceeds paid for almost $8 million in debt service. Four years from now (fiscal year 2014), it is estimated that lottery proceeds will have paid for $50.1 million in debt service.
The use of lottery proceeds to pay for debt service has a significant effect on the Forsyth County property tax rate. As you can see in the chart below, the property tax rate could be substantially higher if the lottery funding did not exist.