Why Fort Mill residents should vote on March 4

On Tuesday, March 4, voters in the Fort Mill School District are being asked to vote on a bond referendum that would allow the Fort Mill school district to address ever increasing facility needs due to an unprecedented rate of growth. Our desire is for our constituents to be well informed and exercise their right to vote.

The following information is offered in an attempt to better inform the voting public. Between Aug. 22, 2006, and Sept. 5, 2007, the Fort Mill school district grew by 804 students, which represents a growth rate of greater than 10 percent. As of Jan. 7, we had grown by another 137 students to an all-time high of 8,772 students. This data supports our position as the fastest growing school district in South Carolina. Enrollment projections just presented to our school board on Feb. 11 by Mike Vead of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments indicate that by September 2008, we should expect to have an enrollment of 9,468 students. By the end of the 2009 school year, we should have an enrollment of just under 10,000 students.

At the present time, two of our five elementary schools' enrollments are frozen and a third school will be added to that list at the end of this school year. Presently, Orchard Park Elementary and Gold Hill Elementary are frozen, and Springfield Elementary will be added to that list in May of 2008. The two elementary schools that are not frozen, Fort Mill Elementary and Riverview Elementary, will receive the overflow from the three schools that are.

We just opened Nation Ford High School this past August and Springfield Middle School in August 2006.

Presently, we have five elementary schools and, by the end of next school year, all five should be at or over capacity. Elementary schools numbers six and seven are under construction and will be built with funds from the Installment Purchase Plan approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2006. These two elementary schools should be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2009. Extra seating capacity for Nation Ford High School and funds to purchase additional school sites were also included in the Installment Purchase Plan.

In this upcoming referendum, we are asking our community to give us permission to spend up to $95,968,000 to build elementary schools numbers eight and nine, a fourth middle school, additional school sites, two additional auxiliary gymnasiums (one for each high school) and a stadium for Nation Ford High School.

An immediate question might be, "What will these bonds cost taxpayers like me?" The school board's goal is to keep the cost to fellow taxpayers as low as possible while maintaining strong schools. Impact to local taxpayers will depend on the tax valuation of their homes. The following estimate shows the averaged cost over a 25 year pay-off schedule to retire debt service for the bonds:

Question 1

$100,000 home: $4 a month or approximately $50 a year

$200,000 home: $8 a month or approximately $100 a year

$300,000 home: $12.50 a month or approximately $150 a year

Question 2

$100,000 home: 40 cents a month or approximately $5 a year

$200,000 home: 80 cents a month or approximately $10 a year

$300,000 home: $1.25 a month or approximately $15 a year

The referendum is divided into two questions. The first question includes the costs associated with elementary schools numbers eight and nine, middle school number four, and additional property acquisitions. The second question includes the costs associated with the two auxiliary gymnasiums and a stadium.

Good stewards

As our taxpayers consider how they might vote, it is worth noting that the Fort Mill school district has been a very good steward with taxpayers' dollars. According to 2005 statistics published by the South Carolina State Department of Education, the Fort Mill school district spends less per student than any school district in York, Chester, or Lancaster counties, and less per student than 66 of the 85 school districts in the state. We spend approximately $500 less than the state average, but we believe we get some of the best academic results for the dollars spent. Dr. Don Thomas, in his last quality assessment review of our district, reported that the academic achievement of our students placed us in the top five percent of all school districts in the United States.

There is so much more that could be said about our school district. We could talk about investing in the future of our community and how a successful public education system helps local business and industry. We could talk about how a successful public school district adds to property values and supports a higher standard of living. In the end, our constituents will decide the future of our school district and the future of our community. I am confident that the right decision will be made.