The ballot for Clover School District’s upcoming bond vote doesn’t specify one of the key selling points promoted in recent months by the district. But it does allow for it.
Ray Stevens received an absentee ballot for the March 22 bond referendum. On it, and on the sample ballot at the county Voter Registration and Elections office, voters see a $67 million price tag for four items: a new elementary and middle school, athletic facility improvements, and a new aquatics and fitness center. The other item is “making improvements and renovations to Clover Middle School.”
That description concerned the Lake Wylie resident.
“I really, truly believe that this ballot is incomplete,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t really tell the story of the money, of what you’re voting for.”
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The district’s plan is to spend $10 million to convert the current Clover Middle into a ninth grade academy. Current enrollment would put about 500 students there with capacity for twice that number.
Wanda Hemphill, director of the Registration and Elections office, said ballot wording isn’t something her staff does.
“We do not have anything to do with the language that appears on the ballot,” she said. “That is pre-determined before it comes to us.”
Typically with a school bond, the ballot is written by a bond attorney and approved by the board. This close to election the wording “is what it is,” Hemphill said. She also said it’s common for more general ballot language rather than laying out specifics of how money will be spent.
“They don’t go in really specific detail,” Hemphill said. “It would make the ballot rather lengthy.”
Stevens says the current wording is “disingenuous and screams of political trickery.”
“Games at the ballot box should not be played with such serious issues in our community,” he said.
Mychal Frost, spokesman for the Clover district, said referendum questions often leave out the “nitty gritty details.” Votes in recent years to relax blue laws in York County, for example, didn’t specify every effect, he said. Frost also said the existing language is “approved and sufficient and legal.”
“What the language says is not something we generated. It’s something an attorney generated,” he said.
Of all the bond projects, only the ninth grade academy conversion deals with the actual high school building – though high school students would use the field at Memorial Stadium and the new aquatics center. The size of Clover’s high school is part of the debate for one group against the bond, arguing Lake Wylie needs its own high school rather than the district increasing the size of Clover High. About 15 residents have formed a group calling themselves the Clover School District Referendum Committee to oppose the bond.
Frost said the bond wording should be a non-issue and it’s “frustrating” if the language stirs opposition. The district spent months outlining the proposed work online, at community meetings and through media outlets. Leaving out specifics on the conversion, he said, shouldn’t be construed as an effort to collect ‘yes’ votes.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with a very small portion of the community opposing the bond,” Frost said.