One side wants top notch schools and to avoid putting students in trailers. Another wants an answer for community growth before stamping approval on the latest school bond issue.
So, which side carries more weight?
The Fort Mill Times posted an online survey to gauge voter sentiment ahead of the $190 million school bond referendum set for March 20. Participants gave information on how long they’ve lived in the Fort Mill district, how many children they have and other factors that could influence their votes.
Also, how they plan to vote.
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The survey generated 275 responses. For perspective, the 2015 vote on a $226 million bond in Fort Mill drew more than 5,400 votes. The typical survey response came from someone between the ages of 36-50 (58.5 percent) who arrived in the district between six and 15 years ago (43.6 percent).
We’ve got new people moving in and bringing awesomeness to Fort Mill and we need to build some schools for those kids.
Responses came largely from parents of current students in the district (57 percent). Combined, people who have a child in the district now, who plan to have one in the future or had one in the past made up 82 percent of all responses.
People who have no children or have grown children accounted for almost 32 percent of the vote.
Yes, and No: What they’re saying
Avoiding having to put students in trailers at schools is a main reason why Genni Threet supports the bond. So is safety.
“To help our schools continue to uphold the excellent standard they have now and to make sure our future school children are safe,” she said.
Robyn Seidman agrees. She has a third-grader in the district. A child “who doesn’t want to be stuck in a trailer if the referendum doesn’t pass.”
Seidman is fine with increased costs if it means a top notch education for children in the community.
“Our kids need space in the schools,” she said. “We’ve got new people moving in and bringing awesomeness to Fort Mill and we need to build some schools for those kids. We need to keep the Fort Mill School District rated as high as it is.”
Charlene Stadnyck moved to Fort Mill 15 years ago. She believes the town and county are responsible for growing the community beyond what it can handle. She also has issues with how many out-of-state license plates she sees at schools.
A yes vote is a green light for more development.
“There are many families that are not actually residing in Fort Mill that are renting apartments here but live in North Carolina,” Stadnyck said. “This must cease. You have truly ruined our community. It is disgusting to say the least.”
Growth has continued to a point where she has considered moving to a quieter area. If enough others feel the same way, all the new school construction could become a concern, she said.
“At that point they will see people start leaving Fort Mill,” Stadnyck said. “My husband and I have talked about moving from this once quiet little country town that has become overgrown and over-built. I just wonder who, then, will pay the taxes? People who reside in the millions of apartments that they have built here?”
Resident Chuck Ledford stated his reason for voting no, a common one on that side of the debate.
“This unfortunately is the only way to stop the over development,” he said. “A yes vote is a green light for more development.”
Why vote yes?
“Yes” voters largely have students within the district. They largely don’t want those students in trailers, a concern many of them foresee money to build new schools doesn’t come.
Others say a strong system increases property values. Or a better-educated community leads to better jobs and overall quality of life. They don’t buy the argument that voting against the bond will stop or deter community growth.
“Kids shouldn’t suffer for officials’ and developers’ greed,” responded one “yes” voter. “I don’t necessarily want to vote yes to raise my taxes but what choice am I given? At this point, I am hoping my kids get through before the quality degrades with the insanely high growth rate that’s being allowed. Developers don’t care that they’re taxing the teachers and resources, they get their money and move on.”
Multiple respondents stated students shouldn’t “suffer” or “be punished” for the high growth rate in the district. Others said strong schools are needed to keep the area attractive for new people looking to relocate. Some noted many homes already have been approved but not built, so voting against the bond won’t slow residential growth anytime soon.
You have truly ruined our community. It is disgusting to say the least.
Why vote no?
Many on the “no” camp feel stuck in their choice. They are not anti-school, but say they have to do something amid explosive community growth.
“Uncontrolled growth,” responded one. “This is my only option as a voter to have any say in the matter. I will vote for improvements, but not new schools.”
The actual cost to taxpayers concerns others.
“We are still paying taxes on bonds that have matured decades before,” responded a “no” voter. “The tax increases that were incurred by these paid off debt bonds are still being levied on us taxpayers. You don’t continue to make payments on a loan that has been repaid, at least in the real world.”
The aquatics center from the last bond is a sticking point for multiple “no” voters. One hasn’t been built yet, though last fall the district announced a partnership with Fort Mill to building onto the pool site at the recreation complex on Tom Hall Street. Expensive sports fields and “extravagant” schools concern some.
The swing votes
A good many voters responded that they still aren’t sure which way to go. They want to know why the money is needed, what Fort Mill and Tega Cay are doing to slow new housing construction, what role developers have in paying for schools. One wants to know when the next bond vote after this one is coming.
“What is the plan to get ahead of development?” asked one undecided voter.
Another wants to know what would happen without the bond money. Several state they want more specifics on how the school board spends money it already has. Many say the issue most likely to sway their vote involves growth planning.
“Hard, decisive voting from our three local governments that prove they are doing all they can to control growth and improve infrastructure,” stated one undecided voter. “I’m tired of hearing that it’s someone else’s job. Our mayors need to make a scene and be a thorn in the sides of every governmental office on our students’ behalf. The school district cannot continue to do this alone.”
Overall, the survey found about 56 percent of people planned to vote for the bond. Another 31 percent planned to vote no. Almost 11 percent were undecided.
Up until the last few responses the percentage of “yes” votes was the exact same as that of parents with children in the district. Which isn’t to say there’s a straight line between the two. Almost 25 percent of parents with children now in the school district indicated they’d vote against the bond. Another 8 percent were undecided.
Only 25 percent people with no children plan to vote for the bond. Another 10 percent are undecided. Among people either with no children or grown children, more than 52 percent plan to vote “no.” Almost 12 percent are undecided.