The Fort Mill School Board could finalize a date for its upcoming bond referendum as early as next week.
The board discussed, but didn’t set a date for the bond at its Feb. 3 meeting. A Tuesday workshop will be the final opportunity for setting the vote in the first week of May, a previously stated goal. The board meets Feb. 17.
“We do see it as an immediate need,” said Kelly McKinney, public information officer for the district. “Time is of the essence.”
The board previously announced it would seek a $226 million bond referendum. The bond includes money for a new high school, middle school, staff training and support center, aquatics center and more.
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Superintendent Chuck Epps showed the board almost 12,000 approved home sites in close to 40 new residential developments at the recent meeting. Much of that growth comes where the projected high school site sits.
“After years of growth on the Tega Cay side of the district, the growth is now trending on the Fort Mill side of town, which is clearly evident as one looks down the Dobys Bridge (Road) corridor,” he said.
Board members are receiving feedback on the plan. Not all of it is positive.
“The amount of money they’re talking about is a bad idea,” said Willard Harryman, a 20-year resident near the new Riverview Elementary School. “That just seems humongous compared to what I’ve seen in taxes over the years.”
Harryman believes the bond will pass, but is concerned for seniors on fixed incomes bearing the new charge.
“I know I’d vote against it,” he said. “I’m not saying they don’t need it. The amount of it is what scared me.”
Board members recognized public concern on the plan. Two years ago voters approved a $54 million bond. The current proposal, which comes to $277 more per year in taxes on a $230,000 home, only provides for the next five years of growth. The district expects more to follow as new home building continues to surge.
Patrick White, board chairman, believes the community understands the district’s task in providing a quality education amid rapid enrollment increases.
“But like us,” he said, “they still cannot wrap their heads around the approval of close to 12,000 homes within our boundaries. That number translates to over 7,000 additional students.”
District leaders say they don’t make the decisions on what residential projects come to the area, but still have to meet the needs of existing and new residents.
“It is still our obligation to the collect and scrutinize the data in order to meet the educational expectations of our community and to plan accordingly,” White said.