FORT MILL -- People jumped out of cars into puddles and faced torrential rains Tuesday to overwhelmingly support nearly $96 million in bonds for new Fort Mill school facilities.
By a 4-1 margin, voters approved $87.25 million to build two new elementary schools and a middle school and buy more school sites, according to unofficial results.
A second proposal, which asked for more than $8.7 million for an additional gym at the district's two high schools, along with seating and concessions at Nation Ford High School's football stadium, received support from 76 percent of voters.
The final unofficial tally was 4,155 votes for and 960 votes against the proposal for new schools and 3,880 votes for and 1,228 votes against the stadium upgrades at Nation Ford.
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District officials hope to open the middle school in 2010 and the two elementary schools in 2011, schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said. They hope to open the athletic facilities in 2009.
"Wow," said the usually eloquent Callicutt as the last precinct results dribbled in Tuesday night at the YMCA in Baxter Village, where supporters gathered. "That's huge. I'm overwhelmed. In my greatest hope I couldn't have dreamed for this large a victory. I had hoped for 2-1."
School district officials and members of the Keep Our Schools Strong community committee that promoted the referendum grinned as each precinct came in and burst into resounding applause, handshakes and hugs when the final precinct was counted.
The only precinct that did not vote in favor of both issues was Riverview.
Equally as impressive as the victory was voter turnout: 22 percent on a dismal, wet day with tornado watches and nothing else on the ballot.
Callicutt did not know who to thank first.
"This is a tribute to the entire school system," he said. "To say this is a tremendous tribute to this steering committee is a tremendous understatement. You have established a legacy that will last for a long time. You have set the bar."
Callicutt said the outcome also is "testimony that this community trusts us. We have such an obligation to maintain that."
Fort Mill school board Chairwoman Jan Smiley also issued thanks to the community for understanding "what it takes to provide a quality education."
Ted Matthews, co-chairman of the Keep Our Schools Strong community committee promoting the referendum, called the results "awesome. It's beyond my wildest expectations."
School officials had held a positive outlook about the academic buildings, but had concerns about passage of the athletic facilities.
"We are excited about it," said Nation Ford football coach Rusty Jester. "I had real deep concerns it might not go through. This will give us a new spark and a new level of excitement."
Chris Brock, Fort Mill High's wrestling coach, also was pleased. Due to lack of space, he said, the wrestlers have had to practice in the school cafeteria.
Callicutt lauded the voter turnout on a rainy day that could have discouraged many from going to the polls.
"It's such a compliment to our community and to our schools," he said. "The taxpayers are paying for this and we don't want to take them for granted. It gives us greater motivation to spend their money effectively and efficiently."
When he had run out of adjectives and adverbs, Callicutt took a breath and summed it up.
"We are extremely blessed," he said.