Florence school district discusses increasing taxes to pay for new high schools

Florence School District One

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The Florence School District One facilities committee is looking for other ways to pay for new schools.

The effort comes after the committee presented a $266 million bond proposal. If approved, the bond will increase taxes.

The facilities committee met earlier this week after hearing backlash from the community about plans to build an $88 million high school for West Florence and renovations for South Florence High School and Wilson High School.

Virginia Snowden says she will not vote for the bond referendum unless it includes a new high school for South Florence.

“South Florence needs a new building too,” said South Florence resident Virginia Snowden.

Board Chair Barry Townsend assures the committee is hearing the community’s concerns.

According to Townsend, three new high schools will cost about $232 million. The board is currently researching two new ways to fund the schools: a penny sales tax with the county or increasing taxes without a public input.

Townsend explains that each option has their own set of  limitations.

“There is the potential for doing a career center with a penny sales tax,” said Barry Townsend. “Unfortunately, to use a penny sales tax to build the rest of our schools would require for laws to actually change.”

The school board has the power to triple the millage and get up to $30 million a year to build new schools.

“We could do that and build the middle schools, the elementary schools and all of the renovations, but we still wouldn’t be able to address the high schools. We would still need the public’s input on that,” said Townsend. “I don’t know that we are prepared, it’s not a discussion that the board has had, an increase like that without the support of the public would be a bold move. I’m not sure where the individual board members stand on that.”

Townsend says a temporary tax increase and a bond referendum for the high schools is another option.

Snowden says she does not mind paying more taxes. She just wants all the students in the district to have the same opportunities.

“It’s time for change. There are some changes… It is up to us,” said Snowden.

The school financial advisors are working to get more information on the other payment options.

They will meet again next Thursday to go over the options.