Florence District One may add bond referendum for new schools to ballot

Florence One Board of Trustees Chairman Barry Townsend (background) gets an explanation from district administrators on a budget question Thursday night

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Florence School District One Board of Trustees members met Thursday night for a final work session on the coming year’s budget.

Members are looking into the future and may ask voters to help pay for new schools in the district.

Board of Trustees Chairman Barry Townsend said while new schools like Delmae Elementary are on schedule, there’ still a lot of work to be done in the district.

“We’re just in a hole that we can’t make up facilities-wise,” admitted Townsend. “The school district didn’t build any new schools for 25 years; in fact our last high school was built more than 35 years ago.”

Townsend said even more new schools will likely be needed in the coming years to better serve students and give them a 21st-century education.

“When you go into some of these new schools that we’ve been able to build, it’s really exciting to see what you can accomplish there,” Townsend said. “Some of our other schools are limited from a technology standpoint; you can’t put the technology in those older schools cost-effectively.”

Florence One has been able to use money from bonds to pay for new schools in the past, but there is a limit on how much the board can use without voters’ approval. Townsend said the board’s facilities committee is now studying other ways to address the district’s facilities needs.

“One of the options would be a referendum,” Townsend explained. “We’re now in the beginning phases of seeing if that’s a viable option for the district.”

Townsend said he’s not worried about the prospect of asking voters to help pay for new schools.

“People get a little excited when they hear the word ‘referendum,'” Townsend smiled. “I don’t. I think actually that’s the way it should work; we’ll put our best plan forward, an then we’ll let the public decide whether or no they thing it’s a good investment.”

Chairman Townsend said the facilities committee will likely make a recommendation to the board in the coming weeks regarding just how much money they’ll need from taxpayers.

The coming year’s budget was the other purpose of Thursday’s session–it includes $1.1 million in teacher pay increases and $3.4 million in insurance and retirement benefits–all mandated by the state.

That budget will get a final hearing and final vote next Thursday, June 1st.