Rock Hill school officials want to borrow $5 million for construction and technology projects that include installing wireless Internet at several campuses, replacing desktop computers with laptops and having students learn by using iPods. The school board is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to borrow the money, a move that would slightly raise property tax bills.
District leaders have sought to persuade board members that the projects are necessary to maintain buildings and keep pace with changing technology.
"This won't move us ahead," Superintendent Lynn Moody said. "This is just to maintain. The wants are a lot more than that. The needs are more than that."
State law allows Rock Hill schools to go into debt for up to $25.66 million for building and technology projects without seeking voter approval. Under the law, that money can't be spent on salaries or other operating costs.
To borrow more than that, the district would have to hold a bond referendum, giving voters the final say.
If the seven-member school board votes to borrow the $5 million, the tax rate for homes and businesses in the district would go up by about 1 percent.
To illustrate, the owner of a home worth $100,000 would pay $2.40 more a year. The owner of a business worth $100,000 would pay $3.60 more.
Last week, several school board members were still mulling it over.
"At this point, I'm up in the air," board member Jim Vining said. "It's a tough call. We need to spend the money."
Vining wants the district to devise a five-year plan for technology and construction, so the board and residents have a clearer picture of where things are heading.
School board chairman Bob Norwood said he believes the projects are needed, but he's bothered by a tax hike.
"If there's anything at all that we can put off until another time, we should do it," he said. "I just don't want to have a tax increase in the middle of this economy."
Board members Ann Reid and Mikki Rentschler support the plan.
"We have to maintain our buildings," Rentschler said. "If you go a year, then you go a second year, costs increase."
"For us to keep up, we have to kind of bite the bullet and keep the impetus going," Reid said. "We're trying to move the district forward with the funds we have."
The Rock Hill school board will meet at 6 p.m. today at the district office, 660 N. Anderson Road
On the drawing board
Rock Hill school officials want to borrow $5 million to complete technology and construction projects. Superintendent Lynn Moody gave board members two lists, each totaling $2.5 million:
Install a wireless network at several campuses - $930,000
Replace outdated desktop computers with laptops - $900,000
Infrastructure upgrades - $300,000
Outfit 25 rooms with interactive whiteboards - $125,000. The digital touch screens, roughly the size of a chalkboard, can play video and surf the Web. Most Rock Hill classrooms have one.
Buy 480 iPod touches - $85,000. Each middle and high school would get two sets of 30. School officials are calling them "student engagement devices."
Upgrade finance system - $60,000
Add and update printers - $50,000
Train staff on new technology - $30,000
Upgrade school library software - $10,000
Increase server space - $10,000
Replace Independence Elementary heating and air system - $575,000
Replace roofs at Richmond Drive and York Road elementaries - $560,640
Parking and traffic improvements at Ebinport Elementary - $550,000
Replace emergency generators at Northside Elementary and Rock Hill High - $110,000
Repave York Road Elementary parking lot - $110,000
Renovate bathrooms at Richmond Drive Elementary, Sullivan Middle and Phoenix Academy - $82,000
Renovate Sullivan Middle auditorium - $70,000
Install partitions at four elementary schools - $68,500
Upgrade "critical communications equipment" - $60,000
Restore grounds across district - $46,160
Replace Northwestern High junior varsity football locker room - $32,000
Replace doors at Saluda Trail Middle - $32,000
Repair foundation at Finley Road Elementary media center - $30,000
Replace deceleration lane at Mount Holly Elementary - $25,000
Replace York Road Elementary kitchen floor - $24,000
Landscape four Sullivan Middle courtyards - $22,000
Repaint Sullivan Middle lockers - $19,500
Repair Northside Elementary's front entrance canopy - $19,000
Add extra security cameras at Rawlinson Road Middle and South Pointe High - $16,800
Replace intercom at Finley Road Elementary - $12,000
Add heating in Rawlinson Road Middle music rooms - $12,000
Install fence at Old Pointe Elementary - $8,000
Upgrade heating and air system at district office - $5,000
Energy improvements for Rebound Alternative School mobile units - $4,950
Replace district office binding machine - $3,550
Install lights at Central Child Development Center - $1,900