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School board approves penny sales tax
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On a 6-1 vote with two members absent, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees approved a resolution Tuesday amending a proposed bond referendum that would ultimately ask voters to support a penny sales tax in order to pay for new school construction and improvements. The board also voted, 6-1, to approve the language of a second referendum listing out those projects. Trustee Kim Durant voted against both measures; trustees Don Copley and Derrick Proctor were absent.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson estimates the cost of Phase 2 of the district’s facilities equalization plan (FEP) at $130 million.

“The projects that have been identified total $128 (million) and some change, but we’re starting at $130 (million) because there may be additional charges we have to include,” Wilson told the board, “but it’s not to exceed $130 (million).”

Wilson said that if a penny sales tax is not implemented, Kershaw County would have to place an additional 35 mills on every piece of property owned by county residents.

“What we are attempting to do with the penny (tax) is to mitigate to the greatest extent possible any millage increase,” Wilson said. “If we had that penny sales tax, that 35 mill increase would basically be reduced by half.”

The mill increase would be reduced to 17 mills rather than 35, Wilson noted.

“Starting next year, we have some of the existing bonds that we have on the books right now that will become callable … which means we’ll have the option to refinance that debt, and the market today is much more favorable than it was eight years ago when we (originally) issued the debt. We’ll refinance those regardless of the outcome of the referendum or the penny question,” Wilson said.

He said that by “refinancing current debt and by satisfying existing (technology) leases and reducing the leases going forward, we can save another 9 mills.”

The net impact of the including a penny sales tax in the bond referendum and refinancing callable bonds would be a 9-mil increase, Wilson said. He said that, if passed, the tax would go into effect in 2017.

Trustees then voted 6-1, with Durant voting against, to approve the bond referendum, including the penny sales tax to partially fund Phase 2 of the FEP.

The board then moved on to discussing the Phase 2 project list, asking that the phrase “including new stadium” be added in parentheses to Camden High School’s proposed athletic upgrades. The project list also calls for closing Baron DeKalb, Bethune and Mt. Pisgah elementary schools in favor of a consolidated North Centra area elementary school.

Earlier in the meeting, former Trustee Jesse West addressed the board about the impact consolidating any existing schools might have.

“I haven’t seen anything about the economical impact it’s going to have on the communities when they close these schools,” West said.

He noted that with industry coming to the town of Kershaw in Lancaster County, parents would more likely send their children to school there rather than the proposed North Central Elementary site due to the fact that Lancaster is closer.

West also asked about what would happen to empty school buildings once they are closed.

“What’s going to happen to those schools? They will be sitting in the community with no protection around … I don’t want Kershaw County to be known as the place where we’re moving buildings around and leaving buildings sitting. It gives a black eye,” West said.

He said part of his concern was that the empty school buildings would be accessible to vandals.

Durant again voted against the project list language for the second referendum. She said that while she did support renovations and additions to schools in other areas of the county, she could not support consolidating the three North Central area elementary schools into one.

In other news, the board also:

• heard a presentation about 2014 scholarship awards; and

• voted 6-1, with Trustee Nissary Wood voting against, to grant long-term rental of Lugoff-Elgin Middle School to CrossPoint Church from July 13, 2014 to April 1, 2015.