Fort Mill Times

Voters’ approval for $54 bond sale is ‘Christmas in April,’ Fort Mill superintendent says

Voters overwhelmingly approved a $54 million bond sale on Tuesday that will expand both Fort Mill high schools, build a new Riverview Elementary School and make technology and security improvements at all district schools.

The bond sale was approved by 81.9 percent of the voters, 3,229 to 698, according to results that have been posted, but not yet certified by York County elections officials.

Work will begin immediately, said Superintendent Chuck Epps. District officials are meeting with architects on Thursday to review plans for the high school expansion projects. Turf fields at both high school stadiums, a $1.8 million component of the referendum, are planned to be installed in time for football this fall, he added.

“It’s like Christmas in April,” Epps said. “This community has once again shown its support for public education and public schools.”

The expansion of Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools will delay the need to build a third high school, district officials have said, although a third ne will eventually be needed if population growth rates continue, they contend.

Both Nation Ford and Fort Mill high school are expected to reach their current capacity of 1,800 students in the 2015-2016 school year. The expansion will increase capacity at both schools by 600 students, for a total of 2,400 students per school.

As part of the expansion plan, Fort Mill High School will annex the property now occupied by Riverview Elementary. A new Riverview Elementary will be built on property the district bought last year on Hwy. 21 Business.

The school district also hopes to expedite construction of the new Riverview Elementary School, to open in the 2014-2015 school year, Epps said, although he emphasized that building a school in such a short time frame difficult.

The Nation Ford High School campus will be expanded onto its surrounding property.

Voter turnout was just over 10 percent. The referendum question was the only measure on the ballot.

“I think it was about average for a special election like this,” Fort Mill School Board Chairman Patrick White said.

“When your community supports what you’re doing at more than 82 percent on a bond referendum, it’s certainly heartwarming to know you have the community support at that level.”

For residential property owners, approval of the bond sale means that taxes will increase $66 a year on a home valued at $100,000 and $165 annually for homes with an assessed valuation of $250,000.

Also included in the referendum:

•  Technology improvements of $2.3 million would allow the district to purchase Chromebooks and iPads as well as software, security and management to support the mobile devices.

•  Safety improvements totaling $1.9 million for upgrading interior and exterior camera system, installation of badge door access points on secondary schools and intercom upgrades.

Voters questioned while exiting the polls all sounded the same theme.

At the Palmetto precinct inside Tega Cay Baptist Church, Don and Vicky Olson both said they voted in favor of the question although Don Olson said that he didn’t favor all of the spending in the measures.

“I guess we’re in favor of expanding the two high schools before they have to build another one,” Don Olson said.

Rochelle Settle at the Orchard Park Precinct said she voted in favor of the bond because, “I have two children in Fort Mill Schools. Keeping up to date with the schools and keeping up with population growth is important not only for the children, but for the community in general.”

Michael Blondo, who cast his ballot at the Doby’s Bridge Precinct, said he was convinced to vote yes at an information meeting held last week at Fort Mill Middle School.

“I was very impressed at the meeting, what they want to do and save money now to further education and [build new] buildings later on,” he said.

Tuesday was also the first election held in the township since South Carolina’s voter ID law went into effect. All voters were required to show a photo ID before voting. York County Registration and Elections staffers were at the Orchard Park precinct taking photos and printing ID cards for registered voters who did not have picture IDs on Tuesday.

Fort Mill Times Editor Michael Harrison Contributed.