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Developing the FEP Phase 2 referendum

Posted: July 18, 2014 1:41 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Phase 1

One of the many things that attracted me to the Kershaw County School District seven years ago was the opportunity to work on Phase 1 of the Facilities Equalization Program. I am extremely proud of the way the district managed Phase 1. Because of a favorable bidding environment, outstanding project management and excellent financial oversight, more than 15 additional projects were completed beyond what was originally planned.

These additional projects included a new Jackson School, much-needed multi-purpose rooms at Stover Middle and North Central Middle, a six-classroom addition and media center expansion at Blaney Elementary and renovation of the old Lugoff-Elgin Middle so that this facility could be used as an annex to serve increased enrollment at Lugoff-Elgin High. If anyone can find a school district that squeezed more out of a building program, I want to know where it is.

An aside…. One of the additional projects was the purchase of the vacated Howden Buffalo facility for a district office, which some folks questioned. The old district office needed significant and expensive roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, asbestos abatement and accessibility work. Even if this work had been done, the building was still too small and lacked sufficient parking. The turnkey process to transition to the Howden Buffalo facility cost $28 per square foot for a building that has adequate space, ample parking, facilities for community use and 28 acres of land. You can hardly build a good doghouse for $28 per square foot. It is important to note that the funds used for this purchase were from interest earned on the original $102 million in bond funding. A large portion of this interest would have been paid to the federal government if it had not been used.

Why Phase 2?

It was always intended for there to be a Phase 2 because a number of critical needs still exist. Several of our buildings are now 40 to 50 years old. The original section of Mt. Pisgah Elementary was built in 1924. There are significant roof, HVAC, accessibility, septic system, electrical, plumbing and energy efficiency issues in a number of schools. The roof at Lugoff-Elgin High School leaks incessantly. Also, the classrooms in several schools are just too small to deliver instruction that is consistent with 21st century needs. The simple truth is that schools just get old and need more than a good cleaning or a coat of paint to be used into the long term. If you own an old house, you know exactly what I mean.

Engaging the public

The process to develop the Phase 2 referendum has been thorough and open. It started in early 2012 when the school board began an examination of all the facilities that were not impacted or adequately addressed during Phase 1. The board used the comprehensive report done on our facilities in 2005 by the Heery Group as part of its review, along with updated pictures of each facility. Based on this review, a list of needs was developed and costed out. At this point, the board directed staff to seek feedback from the public.

In December of 2012, Director of Operations Billy Smith and I embarked on a series of more than 40 meetings with stakeholders to discuss needs and receive comment. We met with PTOs, school improvement councils, civic groups, church groups, business groups…basically anyone who would have us. (Poor Billy heard me tell some of the same stories over and over.) We got some very beneficial perspective from these sessions. At many meetings, we seemed to hear something we hadn’t thought of or heard before.

In late 2013, we reported our findings from these meetings back to the school board. Based on this information and its earlier review of our facilities, the board developed a preliminary list of projects and asked staff to verify costs and hold further public meetings to receive additional feedback. This past April, the board used the additional feedback and updated cost information to refine the project list. This past May, the board held two more public hearings and had further discussion about proposed projects. Ultimately, the board approved a project list for the referendum in early June.

One-cent sales tax

One of the critical pieces of feedback that we received from the public was that it would be more palatable to the community to fund projects through a one-cent sales tax versus a property tax increase. Because legislation needed to be passed at the state level to permit this funding strategy, staff worked very closely with our legislative delegation to shepherd this legislation through the 2014 General Assembly session. I want to express my gratitude to Senator Sheheen, Representative Funderburk, Senator McElveen and Senator Lourie for their tremendous work to make this happen.


As we move towards taking this referendum to a vote in November, I firmly believe that the district staff and the school board have made a tremendous good-faith effort to engage the public. I believe the credibility of the process I have described speaks for itself.

I would note that information about the proposed projects and pictures of the schools to be addressed can be found on our website. The pictures really bring the needs to life.

I’m always pleased to talk with community members about our schools. The district phone number is 432-8416 and my email is Citizens can contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district Website. I also invite folks to read my “blog” and listen to the podcast I record after each school board meeting with meeting highlights. Both of these, and a whole lot more, can be accessed at on our award-winning website,


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