The Rock Hill school board on Monday told district leaders to move ahead with a plan to borrow up to $5 million for technology and construction projects, with one caveat: No tax increase.
The board voted unanimously, with member Jason Silverman absent, to approve district officials' plan, which includes buying iPod Touches for students, replacing school roofs and installing wireless internet at several campuses.
In her pitch to the school board, Superintendent Lynn Moody had described the projects as necessary to maintain buildings and keep pace with changing technology.
Originally, the district expected that would come with about a 1 percent tax bump. But school board members weren't comfortable with that and voted to avoid it.
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That shouldn't be a problem, Associate Superintendent Anthony Cox said. The $5 million figure was an estimate, and some of the projects could cost less. Also, the district could avoid a tax increase by postponing projects and strategically structuring its debt.
State law allows school systems to go into debt up to a point for building and technology projects without voter approval. Rock Hill schools' limit is $25.66 million. To borrow more than that, the district would have to hold a bond referendum, giving voters the final say.
Under the law, that money can't be spent on salaries or other operating costs.
The district generally has borrowed around $5 million annually to maintain buildings and update technology. The intent is to keep the tax rate for home and business owners steady.
"People don't realize we've been doing this for 34 years," school board Chairman Bob Norwood said. "We pay off some debt and we take a step forward."
It's not clear how soon construction could begin on any of the projects.
Many of the building projects are related to student safety, Cox said.
For instance, the district's plan includes $68,500 to install partitions at four elementary schools - Sunset Park, Rosewood, Northside and Belleview - to keep visitors from entering campus without first checking with front office staff.
Ebinport Elementary needs roughly $550,000 for "parking and traffic improvements."
"We are not looking at fluffy things," Cox said.
The technology projects, which were planned with input from principals and parents, include making middle and high schools wireless. Then, the district would replace older computers with laptops and Net books and buy two sets of 30 iPod Touches for each middle and high school.
Students would use them in class instead of the computers they now use, Moody said. Students who already own iPods, could use them.
"If we do not introduce them to technology, then we're going to have a generation that's behind," school board member Mildred Douglas said.
Board members agreed the projects are needed.
Take a car alignment, for example, board member Walter Brown said.
"You're either going to have that front-end realignment done now, or you're going to have it done later and pay more."