District, Board Feeling Heat from Bond Issue

FAIRFIELD – Last month, the Fairfield County School Board unanimously approved a $20 million bond to finance the construction of a new career and technology center. With that bond comes a tax increase, from 24 mils to 34 mils, for two years, and numerous readers have expressed their outrage about the hike in letters to The Voice and postings on the newspaper’s Web site, www.fairfieldcountyvoice.com.

One reader, “Treasha,” posted on our Web site: “How much more can we take? The Board is making it impossible to live at Lake Wateree. Watch your vote next time. Enough is enough!” Another reader, “gmd123,” posted: “Unbelievable! Have these people lost sight of the fact that we are not in the best of economic times? I promise that my District rep. will not get my vote next time. . . . If the new nuclear facility will bring the funds they so desperately want to spend, then wait until those funds arrive.” And in his letter to the editor in last week’s edition of The Voice, David L. Waters of Ridgeway wrote: “. . . they threw taxpayers under the bus. No referendum or opportunity for public input. Millage increased by 50 percent for two years without even telling those responsible for footing the bill is underhanded and sneaky.”

Beth Reid, Chairwoman of the Fairfield County School Board, said the vast majority of the feedback she has received on the bond has been positive. And, she said, there was nothing “sneaky” about the process.

“We’ve not been hiding our discussions at all,” Reid said. “We’ve had a number of meetings over the last eight to 10 months on the subject, our agendas have been posted, and it has been clear that we have been on this path.”

The District was not legally required to hold a referendum, Reid said, and doing so as a simple courtesy would have only added additional cost and time to the process.

“We didn’t want to spend even more money to go through that, win or lose,” Reid said. “Construction of a new career center is long overdue. We’ve had the facility studies. The research has been done and the time to act is now.”

Exactly how much will homeowners be expected to pony up for the new facility?

According to the Fairfield County Tax Assessor’s Office, taxes on a $50,000 home will increase by $68, from $372.80 to $440.80, for two years under the 34 mils rate. On a $75,000 home, a homeowner can expect their taxes to go up $102, from $559.20 to $661.20. A homeowner living in a $100,000 home will see their taxes go up $136 for two years, from $745.60 to $881.60. On a $150,000 home, the bill will increase by $204, from $1,118.40 to $1,322.40. For a $200,000 home, a homeowner’s contribution will rise from $1,491.20 to $1,763.20, an increase of $272. And on a $500,000 home, taxes will go up $680, from $3,728 to $4,408.

Prior to the vote at the Feb. 19 School Board meeting, Brent Jeffcoat, the District’s bond attorney, told the Board that the $20 million was within the District’s debt limit and the millage increase beneath the threshold required for a referendum. J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools, said at the meeting that tax revenues from the two new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station could also help alleviate the District’s debt ahead of schedule, once those reactors come on line.

The estimated cost for the new career center is $15.6 million. The remaining $4.4 million will be used to finance other facility and equipment needs within the District.

“I think there are people who don’t understand how millage works,” Reid said. “Since the passage of Act 388 (in 2006), school operation funds no longer come from homeowner taxes. Only our bond service debt is being dealt with through taxes. Most people don’t mind taxes going up if it improves our county.”

And, Reid said, her taxes will go up as well.

“The hardest part is being a property owner and voting to raise your own taxes,” Reid said. “I’m going to feel it, too.”

Comments

  1. David Lee Waters Sr says

    Holy Sheep Dip! Now they’re backing the bus up and making sure we’re dead! The board feels no remorse. They can’t answer the important questions like “Why now in the midst of this economy where everyone is already heavily burdened?” “What cost is it to make this type of thing clear to the public BEFORE the vote?”
    A mere pittance at best and a show of integrity, which obvious to the most casual observer, this board is incapable of demonstrating. They’ll continue to preach to the choir, “it’s for the children!” This county already spends ore than just about every other county in the state with poor results! Keep throwing money at it! Other counties just laugh at Fairfield county. They use it as an example of what NOT to be. As they told us in the military, “Piss poor prior planning provides for poor performance!” That is the SOP, the ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for the school board in this county. The organization should be eliminated. Positive feedback? I’ve not heard ONE IOTA of good from a single solitary citizen that is not on the board! Not one! People are so mad they could spit!

  2. If the hardest part is “being a property owner and voting to raise your own taxes” then why did the school board not present the increase in taxes to the taxpayers to see what they thought?

    It appears Beth Reid is playing a word game on the taxes when she says that ”
    “Since the passage of Act 388 (in 2006), school operation funds no longer come from homeowner taxes. Only our bond service debt is being dealt with through taxes. Most people don’t mind taxes going up if it improves our county.”
    When I get a bill for homeowner property taxes, the bill is in there. You can call it service debt but you get ripped regardless. If the school board and Beth Reid sincerely believe as she stated that “Most people don’t mind taxes going up if it improves our county”, why was this not presented to the taxpayers for their voice. This was taxation without adequate representation of the paying voters.

    • Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said he was concerned that the District had voted on the bond without a referendum, adding that any hoped-for relief for the bond debt from future V.C. Summer tax dollars is further out than some anticipate.

      “We keep talking about the V.C. Summer money being a few years out. The V.C. Summer money is six years out,” Ferguson said. “The earliest we will see that money is 2019.”
      This information from County Council invalidates the assumption that the bond will be paid back in an accelerated manner (a couple years) and invalidates the premise used to approve the bond.

  3. gmd123 says

    Well, since the board didn’t allow us to vote on this bond issue, we will certainly vote come election time… yes, we tax paying citizens will remember. There sure seemed to be some better options. Why not contract Midlands Tech to do the job done by a “career center”? They could probably do it better and cheaper. Plus we have to remember that once this facility is built the excuse will be that we spent so much to build it, we must spend more to maintain it. While running for re-election, our board representative stated at a community forum that she would continue to be against tax increases in our county. Well, this statement helped get her re-elected. She fooled me! But now we know the truth, and I seriously doubt Ms Hartman will get the homeowner vote next election. Yes our kids matter! Maybe teaching them not to spend money you don’t have would be a good lesson to teach them.

Speak Your Mind

*