Before the economy soured, Fort Mill voters approved $95.9 million in bonds for new schools and athletic facilities.
The bond package, which is paying for new auxiliary gyms at both high schools, a stadium at Nation Ford High, two elementary schools, a middle school and land for future schools, passed overwhelmingly in March. It was split in two questions; The first one, for the schools and land, passed by a 4-1 margin, while the athletic facilities component passed by more than a 3-1 margin.
"Wow," said usually eloquent Superintendent of Schools Keith Callicutt as the last voting precinct's results were tallied. "That's huge. I'm overwhelmed. In my greatest hope I couldn't have dreamed for this large a victory. I had hoped for two-to-one."
The vote paved the way for the district's eighth and ninth elementary schools and fourth middle school. However, long-range studies suggest a 10th elementary school, fifth middle school and potentially two more high schools will be needed within the next decade. The need for those additional schools may be put off longer, however, because growth seems to have slowed from the record 11 percent to closer to 7 percent since the summer.
The district set up a separate committee to run the bond campaign leading up to the referendum vote. The group, led by tri-chairs Ted Matthews, Lori Hillman and Wayne Bouldin, kicked the effort into high gear in January, enlisting parents, teachers and even students to help get their message out.
The tri-chairs and other committee members made countless appearances at local government and community group meetings urging people to vote "yes" on both bond questions. The ultimately successful effort was modeled on previous successful bond campaigns.
The committee held to the notion that the more information people had about the bonds and the space crunch facing Fort Mill schools, the more likely they were to support the spending. The enrollment freezes in place at three of the district's five elementary schools over the past three years along with the highest population growth rate in the state helped their case.
Matthews called the results "awesome" the night the bond issue was approve.
"It's beyond my wildest expectations," he said.