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District One administrator explains bond request reduction, says Lexington Chamber will support refe

Red Bank/White Knoll, SC (Paul Kirby) – Lexington School District One’s Chief Operations Officer Jeff Salters said last Wednesday evening that the Lexington Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the bond referendum being put before voters for their approval in November. He said that the chamber’s members voted their approval at their last meeting. Salters also said that the district had decreased the total amount of money they were requesting after hearing from businesses and the community that they needed to trim the request as much as they possibly could and still serve the needs of the students of the county’s largest district. He said much of the trimming was accomplished by delaying some maintenance on facilities. As an example, he said that a hot water-heater at a school that was projected to be replaced in 2020, might be pushed out until 2022 in order to save money.

Salters was speaking to a group of interested parents and members of the White Knoll School Improvement Council. He made it clear at the onset that he could not actively promote the referendum by state law and was there to simply educate interested parties about the needs of the district and what would be done with the money if the referendum were approved.

Salters did say during the presentation that if the bond referendum were approved with its current priorities, projects, and needs in place as detailed in the list he distributed Wednesday, those projects are what would have to be done with the money. This project list is also on the district’s website (see here). For example, they could not ask the public to approve a new school for Pelion in the referendum, and then decide to build it in the White Knoll area instead. He did explain that if there are savings from some projects, those can be moved to other broad need categories like finish upgrades at a school. Salters explained that finish upgrades are very flexible and could include everything from painting classrooms to putting down new carpeting or improved facades on buildings.

The current plans still include building five new schools. They are projected to be built in the order and year they are listed below. They would be located in the following attendance areas. The last row shows the estimated cost of each school’s construction.

  • Gilbert area: New Elementary School – Opening 2020-2021 - $33,500,000

  • River Bluff area: New Elementary School – Opening 2020-2021 – $33,500,000

  • Lexington area: New Middle School – Opening 2021-20200 - $53,000,000 **

  • Pelion area: New Middle School – Opening 2021-20200 - $53,000,000 **

  • White Knoll area: New Elementary School – Opening 2022-2023 – $37,000,000

** Denotes lager schools with a student attendance of 1,500 rather than the 1,000 planned for the less expensive elementary schools.

These numbers only amount to $210,000,000. The remainder of the funds being requested would be used for additions, upgrades, and maintenance work to the district’s other facilities.

Salters took questions at the end of his presentation. One parent asked what would happen if the bond referendum didn’t pass. Salters explained that the school district would have to add students to its existing schools and that would mean greater student to teacher ratios. He also said that some facilities could be built with 8% money as that becomes available. This money is the amount the district can borrow without a referendum. It is 8% of the assessed value of all the property in District One, a borrowing cap the district can not exceed by law. Once the district has reached the 8% limit, they must

pay down debt before borrowing up to the 8% cap again. This is a much slower process and could take quite some time before the new schools would be built.

e borrowing up to the cap again.

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