(a) Boards of education of contiguous counties or boards of education in a group of counties in which each county is contiguous with at least one other county in the group, and any city school administrative unit located in counties to be merged, may merge school administrative units upon approval by the State Board of Education of a written plan for merger submitted by the boards of education involved and bearing the approval of the tax-levying body for the school units. The plan shall be consistent with the General Statutes, shall contain provisions covering those items listed in G.S. 115C-67 (providing for the merger of units in the same county), and shall contain any other provision deemed necessary or appropriate by the State Board of Education or the local boards of education for the merger of school units in two or more counties.
(b) The plan of merger, including any arrangements for financing or taxing for the schools in the new local school administrative unit, may be, but is not required to be, submitted for the approval of the voters of the geographic area affected in a referendum or election called for the purpose of approving these matters. Such elections or referendums, if held, shall be held under the provisions governing elections or referendums as set forth in G.S. 115C-507. Each board of county commissioners shall have authority to have such elections or referendums conducted by the board of elections of its county under the provisions set forth in G.S. 115C-507.
(c) If twenty percent (20%) of the qualified voters of a county to be merged petition the board of county commissioners of their county for an election as to whether their county shall be included in the proposed merger, the board of county commissioners shall call an election on this question for its county under the provisions of G.S. 115C-507. The petition must be submitted to the board of county commissioners within 10 days following the public hearing required by G.S. 115C-67 on the proposed plan of merger. The board of county commissioners shall have authority to have such an election conducted by the board of election of its county under the provisions set forth in G.S. 115C-507.
(d) Boards of education considering a merger of two or more counties may spend money necessary for studying and preparing for such a merger. (1969, c. 828; 1981, c. 423, s. 1.)