THE VOTE: May 1, 2018
The community had an opportunity to vote in a special election May 1, 2018, on a $90 Million Bond Referendum on facility needs at Midland Valley High School, Millbrook Elementary School, Hammond Hill Elementary School, Belvedere Elementary School, and for the construction of a new elementary and a new middle school between Graniteville and North Augusta.
The bond, approved by voters, will result in an increase in property taxes to homeowners of $20/year/$100K home value (4% tax base) and $30/year/$100K value (6% tax base). The tax, if approved, would be a tax on all property (homes, vehicles, etc.). Construction for all projects will begin in 2019 and are estimated to be completed by 2022.
Six projects representing the greatest capacity (space) and safety challenges appeared before voters for their consideration on May 1, 2018. The $90 million bond, will be used for the following six projects and only these six projects.
1. Midland Valley High School was built for 1,326 students and 2017-18 enrollment is 1,463. Due to exponential growth in the Horse Creek Valley Area, the community's high school is currently at 110% capacity and has nine portable classrooms and five "floating" teachers (these teachers do not have a dedicated classroom and carry their materials in backpacks, utilizing other teachers' classrooms when unoccupied).
Renovation and expansion of Midland Valley High School would cost $20 million and provide for the addition of 24 classrooms, an auxiliary gym, dining, parking, and enhanced security.
2. Hammond Hill Elementary School in North Augusta is currently at 104% capacity, with a total enrollment this year of 757 students in their facility that was built for 728. In order to accomodate the additional students, Hammond Hill has nine portable classrooms which has presented safety concerns for students walking from the main building to portables. Many of Hammond Hill's classrooms only have two electrical outlets, making teachers' abilities to create a 21st century learning environment for students increasingly difficult.
The cost of renovation and expansion of Hammond Hill Elementary School, including 18 classrooms and enhancements to the core facility and security, is $15 million.
3. Belvedere Elementary School currently has 651 students and capacity for just 645. In addition to the school being over-capacity, the 1950s-style school presents safety concerns for students and staff members as numerous classroom doors open to the front of the building/outside and the main entrance doesn't force traffic to the main office, making it difficult to monitor visitors entering and exiting the building.
With older restrooms, single-paned windows, narrow hallways and limited parking, the proposed remedy for Belvedere Elementary includes 22 classrooms, a renovated entrance/lobby, improved carline stacking/drop off, enhanced security (fully enclosing the school and eliminating classrooms open to the outside). The cost of the renovation and expansion of Belvedere is $12 million.
4. Millbrook Elementary School, with revised attendance lines beginning in the 2018-19 school year, will have a projected enrollment of 724 students. While the school will remain just slightly under capacity at 95%, the need at Millbrook, with classroom wings dating back to the 1950s, is more about student and staff safety than space. Millbrook is located on Pine Log Road, one of the busiest roads in the City of Aiken, and 20 classroom doors open up to the outside. A number of fences and consistent supervision from staff members help ensure the safety of students, but the open campus without a centralized entrance is a difficult security obstacle to overcome without extensive renovation.
The proposed plans for Millbrook include 20 classrooms (fully enclosing the school and eliminating classrooms open to the outside), an additional playground space, and an improved carline stacking/drop off (in an effort to alleviate some of the school traffic from Pine Log Road). The cost of the renovation and expansion at Millbrook is $11 million.
5. & 6. A New Elementary School & New Middle School Between Graniteville & North Augusta. The growth in two areas of the county (North Augusta and Midland Valley) has substantially exceeded projections. With growth, comes students and families to schools already at or near capacity. The school district has been donated 85 acres of land between Graniteville and North Augusta in the area being developed as Highland Springs.
If taxpayers approve the Bond Referendum, Aiken County Public Schools will construct two new schools on the donated parcel of land, including a new elementary school and a new middle school, each with the capacity for 700 students. With an efficient use of funding through shared spaces and utilizing existing school plans, these schools would be built at a total cost of $32 million.
The Ballot Question
Shall the Board of Education of The Consolidated School District of Aiken County, South Carolina (the “School District”) be empowered to issue, at one time or from time to time, general obligation bonds of the School District, in a principal amount of not exceeding $90,000,000, the proceeds of which shall be used to finance the costs (including architectural, engineering, legal and related fees) of acquiring, constructing, improving, equipping, expanding, renovating, and repairing school facilities, including land acquisition, if necessary, within the School District, as follows:
Renovation and Expansion of existing facilities:
Midland Valley High School
Hammond Hill Elementary School
Belvedere Elementary School
Millbrook Elementary School
Constructing and equipping new facilities:
A new elementary school and a new middle school sharing a common
campus site location and sharing the utilization of certain common
facilities as may be practicable, to be located between Graniteville
and North Augusta?
If the voter wishes to vote in favor of the question, fill in the oval next to “In favor of the question;” if the voter wishes to vote against the question, fill in the oval next to the words, “Opposed to the question.”
In favor of the question /yes
Opposed to the question /no
Interested In More Info?
School and district leaders and board members are presenting factual information to the community related to the scope of projects, facility needs, and school renovation and construction financing.
To schedule an informational session or to find out more information, please contact District Communications Director Merry Glenne Piccolino at (803) 641-2639 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ballot question states the request of a principal amount not exceeding $90 million. The District will not be borrowing the money interest-free, but will be paying interest just as someone does with their own mortgage. Interest has been projected and was included in the cost to taxpayers of the $90 million bond referendum, if the bond is approved. The cost to taxpayers, with interest, is $20/year/$100,000 home on a primary residence for 20 years (4% tax base); $30/year/$100K property (6% tax base). The bond, if approved, is a tax on all property (homes, cars, etc.). For additional information on interest rates and an example of how that relates to a home mortgage, please see the Interest/Amortization Information on the left.
That Couldn't Be True - It's Not!
We've heard and seen misrepresentations of the facts surrounding school facility financing lately. Maybe you have too? In our efforts to provide factual information to voters to allow them to make informed decisions about their community, we'll address false information (such as the untrue claim that our District is sending money to support the Greenjackets' new baseball field) with fact and artifacts right here.
Funding Sources For School Facilities, Construction & Renovation
Aiken County Public Schools, like all school districts in South Carolina (except districts connected with the Abbeville decision), receives no funding from the state or federal government for the upkeep, maintenance and construction of schools. School maintenance and construction funds are a “local” responsibility. In Aiken, cyclic maintenance, improvements, additions, renovations, repairs and building construction have been addressed using the following funding mechanisms breifly described below.
The District issues bonds on an annual basis for building upkeep and repair. Bond issuance is limited to 8% of the Aiken County tax base & generates approximately $18 million per year. Approximately 40% is used for upkeep and repair to existing facilities and approximately 60% has been allocated for new construction (new construction funds obligated to work in conjunction with One Cent Sales Tax Projects through 2024).
Using 8% funds as the funding mechanism, the facility needs on the Bond Referendum would begin to be addressed in 2024 and take more than 10 years to complete (estimated completion in 2037).
ONE CENT SALES TAX
In November 2014, Aiken County voted in favor of a one cent sales tax on most purchases. The One Cent Sales Tax works in conjunction with 8% funds to support five voter-approved school construction projects (Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, North Augusta High School, Aiken High, Ridge Spring-Monetta K-12 Campus, and The Aiken County Career & Technology Center, if funding is available). The tax is estimated to generate $188 million total over its 10 year life cycle.
The tax began on March 1, 2015 and continues for 10 years. It does not automatically renew and voters may have the option to renew the sales tax supporting new projects at the end of its life cycle.
If voters supported a sales tax renewal, and a potential sales tax renewal is favored as the funding source for these facility needs, March 2025 would be the earliest date that project construction could begin.
Another option for school facility funding is through a Bond Referendum. The last successful bond referendum benefiting school facilities in Aiken County was in the year 1976, when South Aiken, Silver Bluff and Midland Valley were built. Aiken County will have the opportunity to vote on a Bond Referendum on May 1, 2018.
If the community supported the use of a bond referendum as the funding mechanism for these facility project needs, construction could begin for the six projects in 2019 and are estimated to complete by 2022.