New district office is a sensible move

The Rock Hill school board has voted to sell its office building and 12-acre property for $2.7 million.
The Rock Hill school board has voted to sell its office building and 12-acre property for $2.7 million. domara@heraldonline.com

If the Rock Hill school district is determined to build a new district office, this seems to be a good time to do it.

A divided school board voted last week to approve the sale of the existing district office building and, moments later, voted to build a new one on one of four sites owned by the district. The $2.7 million from the sale of the current district office and a nearby property sold earlier will help pay for the new office, which could cost up to $6.5 million.

Proponents of the project argue that the current office, which was built in 1967 and occupied by the district since 1992, is too big for the district’s needs and not compatible with technological advances over the years. Deputy Superintendent Tony Cox told the school board that the district could save about $130,000 a year in maintenance and utility costs with a smaller, more efficient building, and that the money could be added to the school operating budget.

Cox also noted that money for the new office would not come from capital funds. It also would not affect money from the 2015 bond approved by voters and would not affect the operating fund or increase taxes.

Nonetheless, $3.8 million – the difference between the $2.7 million from the sale and the $6.5 million cost estimate – is a considerable amount of money. Is a new district office necessary?

Again, timing is a big factor. Simply put, the district has a buyer for the old building, and this is an opportunity to sell it.

The sale arrangement also allows district officials to use the entire office for six months and a portion of it for a year without cost after the sale. That would make the transition to new quarters much easier and more efficient. In addition, some district offices would temporarily move to other locations, such as the district operations center.

One potential site for the new office is a three-acre property at Orange and Black streets near the Central Child Development Center downtown. If this is the choice, the district has proposed closing about a block of Orange Street to provide more space for parking.

Other possible sites include:

▪ A 24-acre district property adjacent to Rock Hill High and Independence Elementary schools

▪ About eight acres next to the Applied Technology Center and district operations center on S.C. 5

▪ The 22-acre Edgewood Center property, a block off Heckle Boulevard.

Board Chairman Jim Vining, who voted against the project, said the only site seriously under consideration is the Orange Street property.

If so, that would be a good addition to the city’s downtown, bringing employees and more foot traffic to the heart of the city.

We understand the argument from critics of the plan who say there is no real urgency to do this now. At the same time, if a new, more efficient office would better suit the needs of the district, why not act now when a buyer for the current office is ready to sign on the dotted line?

The district can save on maintenance and utility costs, wire the building to accommodate technological needs and build the new office to the precise dimensions it wants. Overall, we think the board made a sensible choice.