Several Midlands school districts seeking approval on multimillion-dollar bond referendums

Three school districts across the Midlands will turn to voters on Nov. 6 in hopes of getting...
Three school districts across the Midlands will turn to voters on Nov. 6 in hopes of getting the green light to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars. (Source: WIS)
Updated: Oct. 26, 2018 at 6:08 PM EDT
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Several Midlands school districts seeking approval on multimillion-dollar bond referendums

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Three school districts across the Midlands will turn to voters on Nov. 6 in hopes of getting the green light to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Richland School District Two is asking voters to approve two separate bond referendum questions. The first asks voters to approve $381,952,000 for safety and security improvements across the district as well as new roofs and HVAC systems.

“Every facility within our district will be touched when it comes to safety and security,” Dr. Baron Davis, superintendent of Richland School District Two, said. “That includes fortifying entrances and exits, that includes cameras and that includes our intercom systems.”

Davis said it’s been about 10 years since the district was financially able to implement security enhancements in schools district-wide. Since then, the district has been forced to select certain schools to invest resources in.

“That’s incredibly difficult for us to do because who is to say safety at one school is more important than at another,” he said. “If this referendum question doesn’t pass, that’s the same situation we’ll find ourselves in moving forward.”

Question one also offers a permanent facility for the Center of Knowledge North and an addition at Blythewood High School to reduce the use of portable classrooms. New buses and safety enhancements to transportation will also be made.

The borrowing will also be used to build new schools to replace Bethel-Hanberry Elementary and Forest Lake Elementary, which the district said are too old to renovate. E.L. Wright Middle School will receive renovations to provide a more enclosed campus and replace older buildings.

Davis said technology upgrades will be implemented across the district as well as providing more 21st-century learning spaces in classrooms.

Question two will ask voters to approve an additional $86,454,000 in borrowing to build a district performing arts center as well as improvements to athletic facilities across the district.

“It’s an important ask as well but it absolutely dependent on question 1 must pass for question two to be considered,” Davis said.

The referendum is binding, meaning question one must be approved by voters for question two to even be considered. Davis said the last time the district went to voters for a bond referendum was in 2008 when it was successful.

If voters approve both referendum questions, the average taxpayer can expect to pay $72 more per year in property taxes.

In Lexington County School District One, voters will be asked to approve a $365 million five-year building plan. District officials said explosive population growth is contributing to the district’s need for enhanced infrastructure to accommodate for increased capacity.

“We know that the projections in Lexington District One are that we will see 70,000 new residents in the next decade and our student population is going to grow by 5,000 students in the next decade,” Dr. Greg Little, superintendent of Lexington County School District One, said.

Little said for the past 30 years, the district has averaged 514 new students every year. The referendum calls for updated safety and security systems, three new schools to replace old schools and two new elementary schools needed to accommodate student growth.

“We’re looking to replace Lexington Middle, Pelion Middle as well as Gilbert Elementary,” Little said. “Those campuses have some of our oldest buildings and are our most restrictive campuses as well. We want to make sure we can create new learning environments for those students as well as increase student capacity.”

The referendum also includes renovations and upgrades to 14 elementary schools, five middle schools, five high schools, the district’s maintenance facility, technology center, and community learning center.

“The future-ready classrooms are about providing instructional technology and furniture that allows for our teachers and students to learn in flexible and adaptable learning environments,” Little said.

If the referendum is approved, residents with homes valued at $100,000 can expect to pay about $56 more a year in property taxes. Business owners with businesses valued at $100,000 can expect to pay $84 more per year in property taxes.

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