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Board OKs up to $1.25 million for real estate

School district office would move to undisclosed property

Posted: December 2, 2010 9:39 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2010 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) will spend up to $1.25 million to purchase an undisclosed piece of property in order to relocate its district office.

On a 6-1 vote, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees approved the purchase during its meeting Tuesday night. The vote came after a lengthy executive session, with Trustee Dr. Charles King II voting “no.”

Trustee Andy James was absent from the meeting. Trustee Carol Thompson was not present for the real estate vote.

Board Chairman Joey Dorton confirmed Thursday the school district is purchasing the property in order to move the district’s administrative offices. He said the district has been interested in relocating the district office for several years.

“For years, Kershaw County school board members have discussed the issue of relocating the district office due to high maintenance costs and limited space, particularly when there are a large number of persons who want to attend a school board meeting. In fact, repairs and upgrades to the current facility could possibly cost more than it is worth,” Dorton said in an e-mail. “Recently, the school board was approached by an individual with a piece of property that could possibly be used as a district office.”

Dorton also said the school district has “earned approximately $4 million by carefully managing and investing Installment Purchase Plan (IPP) tax dollars,” which has allowed it to use additional monies for construction or facilities.

IPP funds, and interest earned from the funds, cannot be transferred to the general or reserve fund, save programs and jobs, or be applied to supplies or other non-facility items, according to KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd. The funds can only be used for school district construction-related projects.

“The school board takes the expenditure of public funds very seriously and always has the best interest of the students and community in mind. We are now in the process of due diligence with this property purchase and hope to have a finalized contract very shortly,” said Dorton. “If and when a contract might be finalized, complete details will be provided. We really appreciate the public’s patience and understanding.”

A second motion Tuesday night called for any additional arbitrage money remaining after the purchase to be earmarked for expansions at Leslie M. Stover and North Central middle schools.

Trustee Kim Horton DuRant said Wednesday morning that the expansions at the two middle schools were the only reason she voted to buy the property.

“The only reason I supported that motion was because it was locked in together with addressing overcrowding at North Central Middle School and will provide science labs at Stover,” she said. “And also because there is going to be a significant savings as a result. But that’s the only reason I supported it.”

Wednesday afternoon, King said he voted against the motion because he felt there were more pressing needs in the schools that needed to be addressed.

“I think that this money could have been used towards capital improvements,” he said. “We have far more pressing needs in our schools that need to be addressed.”

There was speculation in recent months that the school district was interested in purchasing a new district office.

When the old Camden Middle School property was put on the market in July 2009, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said it turned out to be “too cost prohibitive” to transform into a new district office.

Several months ago, Byrd confirmed school district officials toured the former Howden Buffalo property located on U.S. 1 in Camden. At the time, Byrd said the district’s purchase of the Howden Buffalo site would be as a new location for the district office contingent upon finding a buyer for the current site. Byrd would not comment Thursday on whether anyone has made an offer for the current district office.

During recent board meetings, trustees discussed addressing more than 30 potential school construction projects, which ranged from replacing or renovating Bethune, Mount Pisgah, Baron DeKalb and Camden elementary schools; to installing security camera systems; to replacing mobiles with additional classrooms at Lugoff Elementary School.

Relocating the district office, however, was never included on the list of potential projects and Tuesday’s motion did not include exactly what the $1.25 million piece of property would be used for.

Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, said the school board did nothing wrong when making its motion after executive session. Rogers said the board is not required to identify the exact property that it plans to purchase before negotiating the deals, as doing such could make the potential deal fall through.

 “I don’t feel like they violated the Freedom of Information Act,” Rogers said, adding that the board “did better than most” by releasing the amount of the potential purchase.

In other news, the school board unanimously approved the replacement of HVAC systems at the Applied Technology Education Campus, Lugoff-Elgin High School and Camden High School at a total cost of $4 million.

 The projects will be paid for out of remaining Qualified School Construction Academy Bonds (QSCAB) funds. Morgan said the replacement of the HVAC systems will have an immediate impact on energy costs paid from the general fund budget.

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