RUMORS VS FACTS
Beaufort County School Bond Referendum Nov. 5, 2019
1. Rumor: Referendum money should be used to increase teacher salaries.
Fact: There is no questions that teachers deserve higher salaries than they are now receiving in our State and our County. However it is THE LAW in South Carolina that referendum money CANNOT be used for ANY operational costs such as teacher salaries. Bond referendums can only be used for building, renovating and upgrading facilities themselves in schools.
2. Rumor: Opponents to this referendum warn that once approved, the referendum money will be moved around and spent on different things not listed on the ballot.
Fact: Article X, Section 15 of the Constitution of the State of South Carolina, 1895, as amended, provides that the debt authorized in a referendum may only be spent on the projects identified in the referendum question itself. None of the authorized referendum dollars can be used for any project not listed on the referendum ballot.
3. Rumor: Cynics claim that there is not enough accountability for how the money will be spent.
Fact: There have already been multiple levels of public accountability for this referendum’s money, including:
A. An annual school district special audit of referendum expenditures (separate from the District’s regular financial audit)
B. School Board approval of all contracts.
C. School District and South Carolina Procurement Policy
D. An independent oversight committee will be appointed by Superintendent Dr. Frank Rodriguez following approval of the referendum. This public committee, reporting to the community, will be representative of the county and will include individuals with experience and expertise in construction, engineering, architecture, contract management and IT so that they can assist with oversight of Requests for Proposals, bids and contracts. Quarterly reports to the public will be part of this process. This approach has proven highly successful in monitoring three successful referendum building programs back in the 1990s and early 2000’s in the Beaufort County School District.
4. Rumor: Naysayers claim the projects listed on the referendum is a wish list, not things urgently needed.
Fact: Beaufort County School District hasn’t had a major building and renovation program since 2008, more than a decade ago. A community-wide group was convened by former Interim Superintendent Dr. Herbert Berg back in January to meet with engineers, school safety experts and others to assess the physical condition of public schools in Beaufort County. The Community Project Review Committee found more than $600 million in needs across the county. The school administration and Review Committee then selected the most critical and glaring needs for the referendum.
Priorities were to upgrade and update student safety and school security issues at ALL Beaufort County public schools, which includes updating the IT infrastructure; addressing overcrowding where appropriate; improving outdated classrooms where needed; demolition and construction of a new K-8 Robert Smalls International Academy because it is such poor condition; and expansion of Career & Technology/Technical Education offerings along with improvements to athletic facilities and playgrounds.
All info about that committee, its work and the full scope of projects is available at https://www.beaufortschools.net/departments/operations/facilities__planning_and_construction/referendum_2019.
5. Rumor: A ridiculous rumor is that local taxpayers don’t have to pay this because the State sends plenty of money to build and maintain public schools, or that local schools can use the lottery money.
Fact: Completely false! The State of South CArolina sends NO MONEY for capital improvements / building construction/maintenance. To address facility issues in Beaufort County, especially of this magnitude – that include new construction, major safety upgrades at all schools and classroom additions, a public referendum is the only way funding can be secured.
State lottery money IS DESIGNATED BY LAW and goes ONLY to fund scholarships for higher education – not for K-12 public schools and certainly not for new buildings in local counties across the state.
The Beaufort County School District website has the full package of research and information behind the referendum: www.beaufortschools.net. It should have all the information you want to know.