SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – In just a few days, Spartanburg School District Five’s bond referendum will be in voter’s hands.
As Spartanburg District Five continues to grow, there is a pressing need for space to accommodate its students. In the upcoming election, people will vote on this district’s bond referendum and will determine where the money will come from to fund the construction and upgrades of its schools.
“Right now we have seen extreme growth in our district and this bond referendum is about being prepared for that growth,” said Dr. Randall Gary, Spartanburg District Five Superintendent.
According to district officials, in the past 25 years, student enrollment has more than doubled. Since 2011, enrollment has spiked by nearly 2,200 students, making it the fasting growing district in Spartanburg County.
Now, the district is working to create more space for its students.
“A vote ‘yes’ for this bond referendum means that we are going to be able to expand our capacity. We are going to build two new schools, we are going to rebuild a school, Wellford Academy, and we are going to complete the renovation of Byrnes High School and we are going to do renovations to Berry Shoals and Beech Springs to convert those schools, one to an elementary, one to a middle school,” explained Dr. Gary. “It’s really going to change the format of our structure to a kindergarten through fifth grade, a more traditional sixth, seventh, and eighth grade middle school and they will feed into the high school.
According to the district, under the new plan, it will create two new schools (one elementary school and one middle school) and eliminate the intermediate school concept. This will allow the district to move towards a more traditional school structure of elementary, middle, and high school. The plan would increase the number of elementary schools in District Five from six to eight, and number of middle schools from two to four.
Two brand new schools will be constructed, and a new Wellford Academy will will built nearby the current school (a total of three new buildings).
James F. Byrnes High School will remain the only high school in the district. The high school, Beech Springs, Berry Shoals, and Reidville will all undergo renovations in order to accommodate the areas rapid growth.
When the renovations are complete, there will be 14 total schools in District Five.
With all of the renovations and new construction comes a large price tag. But, the district is hoping to successfully finalize the project without a tax increase for local taxpayers. That is what the vote is for on Election Day.
“This is a no tax increase. And people are probably wondering, if there is no taxes, why are we voting?” said Dr. Gary. “We are not voting for the taxes, we are voting to take on that debt. There are laws in South Carolina that say we can take up to 8% of our assessed values without going to the voters. Obviously with a referendum this big, it will be more than our assessed value. So, we need the voters permission to co-sign to make this happen.”
A ‘yes’ vote on the ballot will raise the spending limit for the district in order to successfully construct its future schools and renovate some of its current schools.
“The district, as far as that 8%, we have access to approximately $32,000,000,” said Dr. Gary. “In today’s market, you cannot complete, not just all of these projects, but probably not even one project for $32,000,000.”
If people vote ‘no’, the district will be unable to afford the project. This would force them back to the drawling board, and according to district officials, would likely force the school board to increase taxes in order to complete the renovations.
“The board and the district administration has worked very hard to to get us to a point where we can have a successful referendum without a millage increase. If this is unsuccessful, it will be difficult, if not impossible as to move forward with that vision of opening these schools without it impacting our tax payers and we don’t want that to happen,” explained Dr. Gary.
Where that money will come from for the schools, will be determined on election day.
“I think this is important because I think education is a key for the future success of our students. It opens so many doors if students have a good education,” said Dr. Barry. “We are educating our students well but we want to continue to educate them in modern and updated facilities and we want to be able to maintain our great class size that we have in District Five.”