Horry County Schools debates where to get money for renovations, future growth

The Horry County Schools finance committee discussed funding options for Myrtle Beach Middle School renovations Wednesday (Maggie Lorenz/WBTW)

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County School officials have talked for months of renovating Myrtle Beach Middle School, and this week, leaders are discussing where they’ll get the money.

The renovation is part of the district’s “Five Year Plan” and is currently the only project set in stone under the plan. School officials say the project is such a priority because it is time sensitive.

In a few months, Myrtle Beach Middle School will be empty as students move into the newly constructed school. On Wednesday, the finance committee looked at three different ways to pay for the project.

Committee members favored a “pay as you go” option, which would give the district access to the $19.5 million the district has in the bank. But that’s still not enough to fund the $21.1 million renovations for the middle school. The district will also dip into the general fund balance and contingency funds for the remaining $1.6 million.

“The board was a little bit skeptical to issue bonds, additional bonds for this particular facility,” said district spokesperson Lisa Bourcier, “when we know we have the money in the bank to pay for it.”

Myrtle Beach Middle is not the only school in need of improvements. The finance committee also talked funding for the five-year plan as a whole.

In the last year, the district added enough new students to practically fill an entire school. The district has five new schools to keep up with the growth, but those projects went over budget by  $70 million.The committee showed favor for the “pay as you go” option to also fund the five-year plan.

Right now the board has $19.5 million in the bank it can access. If the district opts for the “pay as you go” option, they expect to have an additional $51.1 million by 2024.

Bourcier said the district favors this option over borrowing money. “There is different ways to get there, different options,” she said, “but this is the safest option. It’s funding that we currently have in place.”

But that $19.5 million the district has right now will go towards the Myrtle Beach Middle project. That leaves just $51.1 million for other projects over the next seven years – through 2024.

None of those projects are set in stone, but still, some members of the committee expressed concern that the pay as you go option would not be enough in the short term.

“The pay as you go option may have to be spread out over five, seven years,” Bourcier explained. “But if there are immediate needs that go above and beyond that capacity, we may need to look at other options.”

At that point, the district would revisit the idea of borrowing money. But for the now, the finance committee does not want to do that.

Nothing is final until the board takes a vote. They will discuss the committee’s recommendation at a meeting Monday.