Politics & Government

Fort Mill School Board: Hopefuls weigh payment plan vs. bond referendum

FORT MILL -- The five candidates for Fort Mill School Board discussed growth and how to pay for it at a recent forum.

The forum, sponsored Monday by the Fort Mill Times and the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Spratt Building on Main Street, featured incumbents Patrick White, Diane Dasher and Wyndie Havnaer and challengers Toby Chrisley and Teresa Wilkinson. The five candidates are vying for three seats on the board.

Chrisley opened the forum saying he doesn't want to see the state's top-performing district rest on its laurels.

Dasher said the school district is at a crossroads with many difficult choices to make in the next four years. Havnaer agreed, saying the next years are critical.

Major issues facing the district are how to build and pay for more schools over the next decade to accommodate residential growth. The board is considering an installment purchase plan rather than asking voters to decide through a referendum.

Some candidates already had their minds made up, while others were unsure of the installment plan, which can be used only once. That option will be off limits to districts after the end of this year.

Neither Chrisley nor White support the plan, they said.

"I feel like we must consider the hidden fees," Chrisley said.

White added, "At first, the lease purchase may seem attractive, but I think it would be better to hold a referendum."

Wilkinson said she's leaning toward a bond referendum.

Incumbents Dasher and Havnaer said they are unsure how they would vote -- even when pressed to give an answer. The board might vote on it Nov. 13.

"I want to continue to have an open mind until I have all the facts," Havnaer said.

Dasher said she won't decide until the district hears from the public on the issue.

With the state set to take away property tax income from public schools this spring, all of the candidates agreed something needed to be done to ensure adequate funding.

"I think it is time for us to get serious about our future," Havnaer said. "This is going to hurt us financially. We have to lobby Columbia to make sure we change this law."

"We want to make sure our voice gets heard," Dasher added.

All of the candidates concluded by asking for the small number in attendance for their vote Nov. 7. Most proclaimed their "passion" for the job.

"I feel our efforts have made a difference," White said.

"I have the passion and desire to work for the school district," Havnaer said.

"I want to make a difference for the children of Fort Mill," Dasher said.

The challengers hope that new ideas are what the public wants.

"I am concerned with the growth, and I am ready to be a proactive board member," Chrisley said.

Wilkinson wants to provide for what is best for the schools, he said. "Let's not forget our top priority."