BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Beaufort County voters will see a familiar question on their ballots as the school district proposes its third bond referendum after the last two failed in less than five years.
Some parents tell WTOC that a new school board, a new superintendent, and a committee to hold them accountable, could get this referendum passed.
If the proposed bond referendum gets the needed votes, parents say they’ll get the needed cash to build a new school to replace Robert Smalls Academy.
“It’s become kind of an emergency,” said parent, Kimberly Ison.
Parents say the bond referendum is almost a do-or-die for the district.
“We saw playgrounds that were boarded up. We spoke with students who said flooding was an issue.”
Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said it’s been 11 years since the last referendum passed and the district has grown by 3,000 students since.
“We don’t get this money otherwise. Projects are just going to get more and more expensive, and our kids are going to be in situations that are not safe," said parent, Denise Procida.
Just last year, 72 percent of voters said no to a $76 million bond referendum. This year, they are asking for more than five times that amount - $344 million. Some parents say they can’t afford for it to fail.
“There’s always that concern. I try not to think about that, because I’m not really sure what will happen to our schools; the conditions of our facilities. Our kids are the ones who are going to suffer if this referendum doesn’t pass," Ison said.
It’s against the law for a school district to advocate for a bond referendum, but Rodriguez can tell taxpayers how they’ll spend the money if it passes.
On the ballot, a voter will answer yes or no to question one: approve more than $290 million to upgrade safety and security in schools across the county, build a replacement for Robert Smalls Academy, and renovate and add onto five other schools.
“Nobody can use those funds for anything else. This money is earmarked specifically for those items and will not be misappropriated. I think that’s a fear that some of the people in the community have,” Procida said.
Voters will also say yes or no to question two which could shell out more than $54 million. The money would upgrade middle and high school athletic facilities and improve playgrounds in elementary schools across the county. Question two can only be approved if question one passes.
The superintendent is hosting seven more presentations regarding the bond referendum. The meetings are scheduled as follows:
- Oct. 9, 6 p.m., River Ridge Academy
- Oct. 14, 6 p.m., Beaufort High
- Oct. 16, 6 p.m., Battery Creek High
- Oct. 21, 6 p.m., Spanish-language town hall, Bluffton Middle
- Oct. 22, 6 p.m., Bluffton High
- Oct. 23, 6 p.m., Hilton Head Island High
- Oct. 28, 6 p.m., Whale Branch Early College High
- Oct. 29, 6 p.m., St. Helena Elementary