R2 Board proposes $468.4M bond

BLYTHEWOOD – Two football stadiums, a fine arts center and facility upgrades at several schools are among the taxpayer-funded initiatives Richland 2 voters will decide in a November referendum.

Richland 2 school board members, though, aren’t prepared to dive into a proposed $20 million aquatic center just yet.

On July 24, the board voted 6-1 to place $468.4 million worth projects on the November ballot. Board member Lindsay Agostini voted against the measure.

If approved, school district millage would increase about 10 mils, with the typical homeowner paying an extra $65 a year in taxes, said Harry Miley, the district’s chief financial officer.

Miley said the average Richland 2 home is valued at $167,000, the metric he used to define a typical homeowner.

Board member Cheryl Caution-Parker said it’s been 10 years since Richland 2 last passed a bond referendum.

“We always do what we say we’re going to do with the funds. There’s never been any question, there’s never been any doubt,” Caution-Parker said. “When we go for a bond referendum, it’s not spur of the moment. It takes a lot of time and effort.”

Before the vote, Agostini said she supported everything in the bond referendum, but also pressed for the inclusion of a $20 million aquatic center. She said swimming is a needed skill for Richland 2 students, referencing two recent drownings.

Agostini also said the Blythewood and Spring Valley high school swim teams lacked proper facilities to hold region swim meets.

“We just don’t have the facilities,” she said. “I would like to see a pool included in a referendum.”

Other board members were sympathetic, but also noted that upgrading existing facilities and making schools more safe were higher priorities. They also questioned whether voters would buy into an aquatic center with $468.4 million in projects already bundled into the referendum.

“It would just be absolutely wonderful to have an aquatic center here in Richland 2,” Caution-Parker said. “However, I think we need to do a complete study. We need to pick a site. We need to have partnerships. We need to have the plan completely in place to present to the community.”

Aquatic centers elsewhere in South Carolina, such as in Greenville, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, are largely functions of county or municipal governments, according to the aquatic centers’ websites.

Other aquatic centers in which a school district is involved typically share costs with other government entities.

For example, the York County Aquatic Center is a joint venture between Rock Hill area YMCAs and local schools, according to the Rock Hill & Fort Mill Visitor’s Bureau.

The City of North Charleston and Dorchester 2 are joining forces to build a $20 million center, with Dorchester 2’s portion amounting to about $7.5 million, according to media reports.
The ballot measure that Richland 2 board members approved actually contains two separate questions, according to the school district’s website.
The first asks voters for permission to issue bonds totaling $381.95 million. Items covered under the bond issue include:

  • Safety improvements at all schools
  • Buying new buses and enhancing security in existing buses.
  • Replacement schools for Bethel-Hanberry Elementary, Forest Lake Elementary and Center for Knowledge North
  • Replacement school for E.L. Wright Middle, with renovations to the three-story existing building
  • Technology infrastructure improvements
  • Miscellaneous costs, including improvements to academic learning spaces, other unspecified improvements, and costs of land, engineering fees, and legal costs.
  • The second question is for a bond issue totaling $86.45 million. It includes:
  • Athletic facility upgrades at Richland Northeast and Ridge View high schools, including football stadium upgrades.
  • Miscellaneous unspecified athletic facility upgrades
  • Building a new School District Fine Arts Center
  • Miscellaneous costs, including improvements to academic learning spaces, other unspecified improvements, and costs of land, engineering fees, and legal costs.

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