Why one group says you should vote NO on Beaufort bond referendum

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“We look at need cost trust and judgment and on that scale the schoolboard does not fare that well,” explains Richard Bisi, Co-Founder, CARE. 

Richard Bisi of CARE, Citizens Advocating Responsible education, is countering the Beaufort County school system’s claim that 1000 new students will be coming in to bluffton in the next five years.

Part of the reason the system says expanding May River High School and River Ridge Academy, and building a new school next to May River is so necessary.

“We know there is going to be growth in Bluffton but we also know that not all that growth will be families with school age children,” said Bisi.

Those proposals, as well as new Career Advancement Training Education Centers, for trades like automotive and culinary programs at three other high schools, Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head High, are the focus of that $76 million referendum.

“On the track record of cost overruns, we don’t trust them,” said Bisi. “May River High School, the original estimate was $35 million, the final price tag was $70 million.”

Officially the school system says that estimates on May River High did “not” include athletic fields, just classrooms, which led to the added expense.

“There is an ongoing FBI investigation of the two schools that were completed just two and three years ago,” explained Bisi. “Those two schools are earmarked for expansion and yet the FBI is looking behind the scenes.”

The FBI did ask for information and documents about the construction and architecture costs for those schools, but the school district has said it is “not” the target of their investigation.

Bisi and CARE say they want more information, from someone other than the BCSD before they would vote “yes”

“What we want to see happen is an impartial, third party review of all our facilities, enrollment and future growth because the numbers change from one meeting to the next. So we have no confidence in the Jeff Moss administration.”

CARE Statement about the Referendum:

Citizens Advocating Responsible Education (CARE) does not support the $76 million school referendum. We have no confidence in the school district leadership nor the school board’s ability to provide adequate financial oversight.

EVERY VOTE WILL COUNT,

SO, STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

VOTE NO ON APRIL 21

NEED

* MORE THAN HALF ($45 MILLION) 0F THIS REFERENDUM IS ALLOCATED FOR A NEW SCHOOL IN BLUFFTON (WHICH, ACCORDING TO THE SUPERINTENDENT, WOULD NOT BE BUILT FOR YEARS)

* ALL IMMEDIATE NEEDS HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED. (MOBILE CLASSROOMS WILL ALLEVIATE THE OVERCROWDING AT RIVER RIDGE ACADEMY AND PRITCHARDVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. THESE WILL BE IN PLACE IN AUGUST, 2018)

* NO IMMEDIATE NEED TO ADD TWO WINGS TO BUILDINGS ONLY 2 AND 3 YEARS OLD

* NO EVIDENCE PRESENTED TO SUPPORT CONSTRUCTION OF 3 NEW CAREER AND TECHNICAL BUILDINGS IN BLUFFTON, BEAUFORT AND HILTON HEAD. THIS IS SIMPLY AN EFFORT TO WIN VOTES.

COST

* YOUR TAXES ON SCHOOL DEBT SERVICE WILL INCREASE BY 7%. That will be reflected on your residential property tax bill, as well as taxes on cars and boats.

* THE $76 MILLION REFERENDUM WILL ACTUALLY COST A TOTAL OF $139 MILLION OVER THE NEXT 25 YEARS. (PRINCIPAL $76 M PLUS INTEREST OF $62M)

* BUSINESSES ALSO PAY FOR SCHOOL DEBT AND WE BELIEVE THAT THE INCREASES, IN PARTICULAR FOR THE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, WOULD BE PASSED ON TO THE CONSUMER.

* THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IS THE OPERATIONAL COSTS OF NEW BUILDINGS THAT NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT…THE STAFFING, THE MAINTENANCE, COOLING AND HEATING THESE NEW BUILDINGS, ETC. ANY NEW SCHOOL WILL REQUIRE SIGNIFICANT DOLLARS FOR OPERATIONS AND THOSE EXPENSES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE $76 MILLION.
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Now Beaufort County Schools’ leaders are asking voters help to ease the strain on the classrooms.

This Saturday, registered voters get to cast their ballot on a County bond referendum.

$76 million for 6 projects for the Beaufort County Schools.

Thsoer six projects are:

Additional space and classrooms for River Ridge Academy and May River High School. May River High was built in 2015 and is almost at capacity. River Ridge and Prichardville Elementary, both in Bluffton, are over capacity, and have students in portable classrooms.

$44.3 Million for a new school in Bluffton. The school board hasn’t voted on configuration or size yet, the district plans to recommend a PreK-8 school with 1,000-student capacity. That school would be built next to May River High on property the school system already owns.

3 different CATE buildings, at Beaufort High School, Bluffton High School and Hilton Head Island High School. The career and technical advancement programs would give students a choice, hands on education in several different trades.

“Those are usually oversized classrooms, that deal with classes that need more space,” explains Jim Foster of Beaufort County Schools. “Things like automotive technology, culinary arts with a commercial kitchen. things like welding where you would have welding stations, these are course that kids if they want can get special ceritifications and they can go on to college after high school, or go straight to a good job.”

All the programs and facilities would be finished by Summer of 2020.

“Its a $76 million referendum. By law thats how much has to be spent,” explained Foster. “and by law it has to be spent on the 6 projects that the voters will consider on Saturday.”

https://www.beaufortschools.net/UserFiles/Servers/Server_170841/File/BCS%20District/DEPARTMENTS/Communications/Referendum%20Q&A_F1_March%209_updated.pdf

So what will it cost you? The school system’s tax calculator shows that a homeowner with a $200,000 home would pay about $18.32 extra per year for 25 years.

https://www.beaufortschools.net/cms/One.aspx?portalId=170925&pageId=12374549

School officials legally cannot stump for votes, but they do say changes will have to be made if voters don’t approved the bond.

“There is the possibility of increased class sizes, more kids in every classroom. Possibly buying more mobile classrooms. and the possibility of rezoning student between schools,” said Foster.

The last time voters had a choice on increased taxes for schools, in 2016, the $217 million school district bond referendum was denied.

Supporters hope the more focused target of six projects, construction only, will help this version pass.

Detractors say its too focused on Bluffton only, and they aren’t sure if a divided schoolboard should be trusted with the money.

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