The Fort Mill school bond referendum won't take place until March 4. But supporters of the bond package kicked off their campaign Tuesday with a rally in the Nation Ford High School auditorium.
It was a novel way to both plug the bond issue and inform residents about what is at stake. During the presentation, fifth-graders from each of Fort Mill's elementary schools tested select members of the audience on bond referendum trivia.
Middle school cheerleaders and high school choral and ROTC members also entertained. Brochures, yard signs and other materials were distributed. Those interested in volunteering for the campaign or requesting speakers to address groups about the referendum also could sign up.
As Ted Matthews, a co-chairman of the community committee, put it: "We're going to have some pizzazz."
Indeed they did, and we salute the committee for seeking a more palatable way to feed the public facts and figures about the state of their schools. But this effort requires some active participation by voters as well.
In past bond referendums, in Fort Mill and elsewhere in the county, one of the most common complaints by voters has been that organizers did not make the effort to inform the community about the referendum. In some cases, that was cited as a primary reason the bond issue failed.
Organizers learned their lesson. Last year, for example, supporters of the York school district's $85 million bond package went all out to educate the public about the need to approve the package, which included a new high school, and it passed decisively.
A similar campaign was launched to educate the voters about Rock Hill's $92 million bond package in 2005. That bond was approved by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Fort Mill residents will go to the polls March 4 to vote on two ballot questions totaling nearly $96 million:
• The first question calls for $87.2 million for designing, building and equipping a fourth middle school and the eighth and ninth elementary schools, plus acquiring land for future school sites.
• The second question calls for $8.7 million for a new gymnasium at each of the high schools and a 5,000-seat stadium at Nation Ford High.
The kickoff won't be the only opportunity voters have to learn about the bond package. Steering committee members plan to raise and spend as much as $40,000 to promote the issue. Meetings with school groups already are under way, and more will be scheduled with clubs and organizations.
In other words, supporters are doing whatever it takes to ensure that every resident has access to the facts he or she needs to make an informed decision regarding the referendum. No one will be able to say on March 5 that the referendum was not adequately promoted.
The rest is up to the voters.
Organizers have planned a number of activities to tell voters about school bond referendum.
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