Florence One taxpayers divided over potential $266M bond for new schools

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Florence School District one parents had a first look at plans to build new or renovate schools with a $266 million bond. If added to the ballot in the fall and approved the tax rate will increase by more than double from 32 mills to 77 mills.

The district’s facilities committee explained the bond will benefit every child no matter where they live. Board members answered questions from parents about the plan and whether it is fair for students throughout the district.

Irene Middleton is a parent of three rising South Florence students. She is unsure about the bond.

“More information needs to be given because when you look at the numbers it does not look to be equal,” explained Middleton. ”Students are entitled to an equal education regardless of where they live.”

Board Chair Barry Townsend explained the plan includes $88,000,000 to rebuild West Florence High School. While the other two high schools, South Florence and Wilson High will receive less than $20,000,000 each for renovations.

The plan includes:

  • South Florence High School renovations at $15,060,228
  • Wilson High School renovations at $17,024,547

In total, the money would pay to rebuild five schools, renovate eight schools and three district buildings.

Cindy Wood, a parent of a West Florence High school student, supports the bond because she wants to resolve safety concerns and overcrowding.

“All of the 9th graders are in the mobile units. You can’t secure that,” said Wood. “It’s in a busy area and people can come and go at will. There is just no way stop it.”

Many people did not agree with the tax increase for the bond. Jerry Keith Jr believes the tax increase is an investment in the future of Florence.

“Taxes are going to go up but also you will have an improved level of education [and] facilities. It’s apart of growth,” said Keith. “As the schools improve better jobs come, incomes rise. You have more opportunities. This is an investment that we have to make now for the future of our children and the future of Florence.”

If the school board decides to move forward with the plan, it would have to send the issue to voters. They’d decide whether to approve the bond.

The district hopes to build and renovate schools within eight years.