SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Of the roughly 9,400 eligible voters in Spartanburg School District 3, one in five of them made it to the polls for last week’s bond referendum.
They said “no” to a tax increase that would’ve paid for building upgrades and a new middle school.
“Surprised and very disappointed,” said Spartanburg School District 3 Superintendent Kenny Blackwood. “We specifically wanted to know what our constituents thought about this. We didn’t want to move forward without it.”
District leaders say they had several public meetings to explain why the $58 million bond was needed.
“We were above and beyond being transparent,” said Blackwood. “Although if you read social media a lot of people did not attend those meetings or did not grasp the information so a lot of untruths were shared.”
They say most of the money would’ve built a new campus for Cowpens Middle and the Middle school of Pacolet.
“The current school buildings have outlived their life span,” Blackwood said. “The classrooms are too small. Hallways are too small. The remodeling efforts are not worth the taxpayers money.”
He says it would’ve meant an $8.22 increase each month for a $50,000 home.
“I had a lot of people who were very supportive of the referendum in general but the tax issue just killed it in my view,” said Spartanburg District Three School Board Chairman Kevin Lee. “We were disappointed but I think the night that it happened, we just shifted gears.”
They hoped school improvements would spur growth to stop the declining enrollment.
“The future growth of our district I felt like depended on that,” said Blackwood. “We wanted to be the catalyst to spring residential growth – housing developments coming in.”
They said the school board will have strategic planning sessions over the next couple of months.
“Not necessarily the new building but to make sure we’re doing the programs and course offerings and all the good things that we know our students need,” said Blackwood.
He says consolidating and closing the middle schools are still on the table, as is raising property taxes, because the problems the referendum sought to fix still exist.
“Every year, the way the state money flows for any district in our area, that has to be looked at on an annual basis,” said Blackwood.