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Chamber elects board members, endorses school referendum

Posted: August 25, 2016 5:29 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center held a reception to bid a fond farewell to Executive Director Liz Horton, who is leaving the chamber for a new position with the Greenville, S.C. Chamber. Horton has served as the Kershaw County Chamber’s executive director since 2008. Shown from left are Joy Claussen Scully, Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, Horton, and Camden Mayor Tony Scully.

The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center board elected five new members to its board of directors during the board’s August 18 meeting. 

Thomas Anderson of Potters Computer Systems, LLC; Kimberly Dixon of First Palmetto Bank; Chip Galloway of Galloway Enterprises/KFC; Kesha Hayes of Professional Development & Training Services, LLC; and James Plemons of Servpro of Kershaw and Lancaster Counties were all unanimously elected to the board.

The slate of nominees was adopted in its entirety as no other names were submitted by petition from the Chamber membership.  The board then voted unanimously to approve Dr. Eric Rundlett with Wateree Animal Hospital in Elgin and Brent Hutto with First Citizens Bank, both of whom were nominated by Chamber Board President Dennis Ray.  Ray also announced the resignation of Kevin Wilburn from the Board due to personal family health issues. Finally, Ray announced he appointed Greg Newman of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to fulfill Wilburn’s unexpired term, which ends June 30, 2017.  

Ray then gave the board an update on the state of the chamber, reminding the board that the chamber’s current executive director Liz Horton will be leaving at the end of August and Amy Kinard, immediate past president of the board, has agreed to serve as interim director until the search for a new director has been completed.  Ray then recommended a slate of candidates to be responsible for conducting the search for a new executive director.  The board unanimously approved Chip Galloway, Amy Kinard, Kirk Mays, Melissa Emmons, Greg Newman, Dr. Tim Hardee, and Rick Jiran to make up the search committee with Chip Galloway serving as chair.  

Following the regular meeting, board members spent the day with consultants from 4Ward Consulting to develop a new 3-year strategic plan.  

However, prior to the strategic planning session, the board voted unanimously to endorse the Kershaw County School District bond referendum, which will appear on this November’s ballot and the one-cent sales tax which is to be used to offset the cost of the bonds so that a millage increase would not be necessary.  Further, the chamber strongly endorsed the referendum project relocating ATEC on the site of Central Carolina Technical College, which the chamber believes is critical to developing a trained and ready workforce.    

The chamber believes the school bond will provide funding for much-needed construction and renovations to the aging system.  Kershaw County is identified as one of the fastest growing regions in the Midlands, with demand for space in its public schools being a persistent issue. The bond addresses the need for both renovations to existing schools and additional space for the growing student population. The plan will result in three new elementary schools, additions for growth at four additional schools, renovations to all three high schools to include athletic safety improvements and the relocation of ATEC.  In addition, most of the remaining schools in the district will also receive upgrades and renovations.  

According to a study conducted by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, there is a direct correlation between public schools and economic development, according to chamber officials. Further, there is consensus among researchers that education enhances productivity and quality public schools can help make localities more economically competitive.  

“If we hope to maintain or improve the quality of life in our communities, attract new industries, and continue to prosper as a community, top-notch schools are essential,” Ray said.  “Education is the best investment we can make—one that pays off in countless dividends, for us, for our children, and for our community.  Research has shown that if we improve our public schools, economic development will follow.  The chamber recognizes the direct correlation between the development and improvement of quality of life for all citizens and the community having strong schools, and quality of life does seem to be an increasingly important consideration when higher-skilled employees consider where they want to live.  Kershaw County businesses know a cornerstone to a strong community is a vibrant and successful educational system and that a solid public school system provides future workers with the necessary tools to empower Kershaw County business success. We must continue to invest in our public schools.”

While the influence of public schools on state and local development may be difficult to precisely gauge, one aspect of local development is clear—a host of academic studies argue that school quality has a direct and positive influence on residential property values, Ray noted.  

The referendum will have two questions. The first question will ask voters to approve the bonds necessary to fund the $129 million in projects.  This will allow project construction and renovations to begin right away.  The second question will ask voters to approve a one cent sales tax for 15 years to offset the cost of the bonds so that a millage increase will not be necessary.  It is estimated that between 30-40 percent of the revenue generated by the one cent sales tax will come from people who live outside of Kershaw County.  The sales tax would end after 15 years and cannot be extended without voter approval. If both questions pass, all existing debt and debt required to pay for the projects in the referendum would be paid off in 16 years without a millage increase, according to chamber officials. 

 “We worked very hard to make sure members of the Board were educated on this issue, and had the opportunity to ask questions about the referendum over the past several months,” Kinard said.  “I am committed to continuing this education to our broader membership, to ensure understanding of the impact of the vote on businesses.  I do know our business community values the strength of the schools in Kershaw County.  We feel supporting the bond as a chamber will continue to ensure that our children have the resources they need for a successful future.”

Kershaw County has excellent schools, however, present facilities are not up to standard in many ways, chamber officials noted. 

“Public schools can improve the local economy and attract new business, which is vitally important given today’s economic climate and the demands of increased global competition,” Ray said.  “It is clear that public schools have a beneficial impact on economic development and the Chamber urges the community to vote yes twice in November.”  

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