Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill School District begins spending bond money

Not a full day after voters in the Fort Mill School District approved a bond issue to finance $226 million in capital projects, the district started spending it.

The board approved $2 million in technology and transportation spending at a noon meeting Wednesday, May 6. The board didn’t vote to approve the full bond amount, as election results from the prior night were not certified until Friday, May 8. Instead, the district put the $2 million plan together ahead of the bond that it could have paid from other sources had the bond measure failed.

Now, bond money will cover the costs.

Brian Spittle, the district’s director of technology services, said about $1.2 million will replace computers at Nation Ford High School, Banks Trail Middle School and Fort Mill Elementary School. Computers there are about five years old and are next on a rolling list for replacement district-wide.

“We look at the oldest PCs in the district and try to come up with a plan to replace those,” Spittle said.

The entire technology budget approved in the referendum is $20 million. Wireless networks and connections will be replaced. Smartboards will be replaced, over time, with large flatscreen, touchscreen units similar to what is used in the three newest elementary schools. The new equipment should last 10 to 12 years, Spittle said.

“Many of them have been in for eight years,” Spittle said of the Smartboards, “and we’re seeing a higher failure rate with those.”

Other bond-related costs are coming quickly to the board, too. A committee received 19 architectural proposals ahead of the vote for the new middle school, stadium and other upgrades at Fort Mill High School and gym renovations at both Fort Mill and Gold Hill middle schools. The committee interviewed seven, identifying a top pick and a backup for each project.

“What we’re looking for is the go ahead to start negotiation with those firms,” said Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent.

A site work plan should be ready by the end of summer and a full plan by Oct. 31 for the middle school. The gym renovations would add bleachers, equipment storage and changing rooms to bring the oldest middle schools in the district closer to what the newer ones offer. Board and committee member Scott Patterson was confident with the plans presented by architects, though costs haven’t come up yet.

“They were very knowledgeable about what they would be doing in our schools,” he said.

A formal bond resolution approving the full amount allowed by voters should come May 19. Superintendent Chuck Epps and Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent of finance, will travel to New York City in June to meet with companies that set credit ratings for the district.

“We’re very close to being able to qualify for a ratings upgrade,” Lordo said.

John Marks •  803-547-2353