Rock Hill voters approve school bond projects

Shamayne Mason votes at Boyd Hill Center on Tuesday in the Rock Hill school district’s bond referendum. Her son Jimar, 10, a fourth-grader at Finley Road Elementary School, watches.
Shamayne Mason votes at Boyd Hill Center on Tuesday in the Rock Hill school district’s bond referendum. Her son Jimar, 10, a fourth-grader at Finley Road Elementary School, watches.

Voters in the Rock Hill school district overwhelmingly approved giving the district permission to borrow $110 million for a variety of school projects.

With all precincts reporting, 88 percent of the voters favored borrowing the money. The unofficial results showed 4,532 in favor and 603 opposed. About 7 percent of Rock Hill’s registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

The money will pay for 51 projects, including expanding some schools, renovations at other schools, buying activities buses, expanding the district’s iRock computer initiative, and increasing security. Each school in the district will benefit from the projects.

Voters said security, technology, and most importantly, creating a uniform learning environment throughout the district were the reasons they supported the referendum.

Updating older schools accounts for about $56 million of the proposed bond spending.

“Not everyone looks at test scores” when making a decision where to send their child to school, said Tony Miles after casting his “yes” vote at the Northwestern precinct at the Applied Technology Center. “They also look at the condition of the schools.”

School condition, Miles said, becomes even more important as Rock Hill has several “schools of choice,” offering specific curriculum.

Other voters agreed with Miles, saying that small and crowded classrooms, classrooms that are too hot or cold, and crowded cafeterias can affect students’ attitudes toward learning.

“If children take pride in their school, and they will also take pride in their school work,” said Phyllis Wampler, who also voted “yes” at the Northwestern precinct.

Robin Cross said her son can spend 20 minutes out of a 25-minute lunch period just trying to get through the serving line at Sullivan Middle School. That’s why she sometimes packs lunch for her son, she said.

“Improved conditions will make the children learn better,” said Cross, who voted “yes” for issuing the bonds.

Louise Brown, who also voted yes at the Rock Hill No. 4 precinct at Boyd Hill, said it simply is a case of a homeowner – the school district – taking care of its own house.

The bond expenses are needed, she said, “because the children need what we have to offer.”

The Delphia precinct, which votes at the Philadelphia United Methodist Church, was the only precinct out of 48 in the city to vote against the bond referendum. Only one vote – a “no” vote – was cast in the Delphia precinct.

Jimmy Jurado, who said he voted “yes,” said his only reservation was the final wording of the bond question did not include a statement that the bonds would not be sold if they increase school taxes.

The Rock Hill school board and Rock Hill Citizens For Children, a residents’ advocacy group for the bonds, have continually said the bonds can be sold without increasing taxes. Bonds would only be sold when previous debt is paid off.

Todd Lumpkin, chairman of a residents group, said the 88 percent who voted yes were more than he thought possible. “To be honest I was hoping for 75 percent or more,” Lumpkin said following Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s a lot of money. It shows that Rock Hill supports its schools and that the school board has made good decisions in the past,” Lumpkin said.

Jim Vining, chairman of the Rock Hill school board, said work on the bonds will begin Monday during a work sessions. There are hour-long sessions on the school system’s technology and capital needs. He said another work session may be needed before the board starts implementing the capital plans funded by the bonds.

Vining said he hopes the board starts to vote on the bond issue projects in late May.

Lumpkin said the work of the advocacy group and the school board has just started. He said the board and the advocacy group need to keep residents informed on bond-funded school projects. “There should be an ongoing conversation with the public,” he said.

Tuesday’s results are unofficial until the York County Board of Elections meets Friday to certify the results.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066