Marlboro County School Board considers bond referendum, needs community support

MARLBORO COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Marlboro County’s school board met for the first time Monday since placing Superintendent Dr. Helena Tillar on administrative leave.

The school board meeting started with a debate about whether the meeting itself was legal. Board member Nan Fleming said the meeting was illegal because it was not properly advertised. Six members voted to continue the meeting. Fleming voted against continuing the meeting. Two others did not vote.

Then board member Barbara Ohanesian went line by line revising grammar and correctness in the minutes from three previous meetings. The board voted five to three to make revisions on the minutes. Fleming did not vote. She later said publicly addressing revisions on 25 pages of minutes was inappropriate.

Six disappointed people from the community asked the board to make the students a priority since there is a division among members.

Chamber of Commerce President Brittany Jones told the board businesses feel the impacts of the board’s decisions.

“With the school district being the second highest employer in the county, we have teachers that have decided to leave the school district because of the things that have been going on for the last couple of months,” explained Jones. “You also have businesses that feel like they don’t know if they want to continue.”

After hearing from the public, the board turned to fixing the district’s schools. Bond consultants said the district could borrow up to $4,000,000 per year with bonds, but they said taxes may have to go up. Mike Gallagher, Director at Compass Municipal Advisors, explained the importance of community support while considering a bond referendum.

Chair Lucy Parsons suggests repairing older schools to get community support.

“If we’re not maintaining what we have, why would they think we would do it on a new building?” asked Parsons.

Board member Janice Bright believes the community will support a bond even if that means taxes will increase.

“We have to do something to get the money from somewhere to move forward with the progression of these schools,” said Bright.

The board didn’t make any final decisions about fixing the schools. It voted to have a workshop meeting to talk more about its options.

Other business:

  • The board approved five to one (three members did not vote) the $32,938,612 budget. Wesley Park, Marlboro County Schools Chief Financial Officer says the millage rate will not change.
  • The board approved eight to zero (one member did not vote) an issuance of an annual $1.7 million dollar bond. Frannie Heizer from the McNair Firm says the $500,000 will go to maintenance.
  • Interim Superintendent Dr. John Lane will present a plan to repair all schools in the district at the next board meeting.