Fort Mill school bond committee makes final pitch

joverman@fortmilltimes.comApril 27, 2013 

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— Voters will decide Tuesday on a $54 million bond sale that would pay for expanding Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools, building a new Riverview Elementary School and making technology and security improvements at all district schools.

The bond referendum includes $1.8 million to pay for installing turf fields at both high school stadiums.

If the bond sale is approved, residential property owners would pay $66 more in taxes a year on a home valued at $100,000. For homes with an assessed value of $250,000, the annual tax increase would be $165.

Voters will be asked on Tuesday to either approve the bond sale in its entirety or reject it. They will not be able to vote to issue bonds to pay for some items and not others.

Technology improvements of $2.3 million would allow the district to buy Chromebooks and iPads. The district already has some mobile computers in the schools, including 200 iPads distributed among the district’s seven elementary schools and 60 Chromebooks at the two high schools.

The bond funding, if approved would allow the district to buy 250 mobile computers – both Chromebooks and iPads – for each elementary and middle school in the district and 500 for each high school. It also would pay for software, security and management of the mobile devices, said Rick Warner, director of instructional technology for Fort Mill schools.

Without referendum funding, “we could possibly get some devices here or there,” Warner said, “but for a project of this size, we’re totally dependent on the passage of the bond.”

Planned safety improvements include upgrades to interior and exterior camera systems, installation of badge door access points on secondary doors and intercom upgrades that would allow principals to make emergency intercom announcements from any phone in the building or a mobile phone.

The $1.9 million in safety improvements likely would take a year to implement, said Brian Spittle, director of Network Engineering Technology.

The safety improvements were on the district’s priority list before the referendum, Spittle said, but without bond financing, it might take five years to complete.

“Security is always at the top of our minds,” said Assistant Superintendent Tommy Schmolze. “We’re always conscious about security and moving forward.”

Adding turf fields at both high school football stadiums would save the school district on maintenance and upkeep costs, officials say. Because turf doesn’t have to recover after bad weather or wear and tear, the stadiums can be used more often, they say.

The ability to use the fields more often could open the fields up to more use by the community, which could bring in more money through rentals, said Joe Romenick, the district’s procurement officer.

Officials argue that expanding the high schoolswould delay the need to build a third high school, although one will eventually be needed if growth continue.

Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools are expected to reach their capacities of 1,800 students in the 2015-16 school year.

Expanding the high schools would increase capacity by 600 students at each school to 2,400 students each.

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