By David Meade
Anderson School District One voters will go to the polls next Tuesday, April 30, to decide if they want to approve a $109 million bond referendum to help fund a proposed building program. The total cost of the project is estimated at approximately $132 million. If approved, the new building program will include construction of two new middle schools, classroom additions for schools that are at or over capacity, critical renovations at schools that need them and improve safety at all fourteen District schools, District One officials say.
In addition to the bond debt, funding for the building program will include $20 million over the next five years from the Local Option Sales Tax and $3 million already set aside from the School District One General Fund.
If the referendum is approved, the district’s millage rate would increase from 30 mills to 46 mills. The property tax rate for a $100,000 owner-occupied home would be capped at $5.33 more a month, or $64 a year. On a $10,000 vehicle, taxes will increase 80 cents more each month, or $9.60 a year, and a $100,000 business would be taxed $8 more a month, or $96 a year.
Anderson School District One continues to be a fast growing area of the upstate, with new businesses, industry and subdivisions. Officials are projecting the district will add more than 3,000 students over the next 15 years. The district has grown from 7,776 students in 2003 to 10,254 today, according to District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker.
Two of the biggest projects, and most expensive, are the construction of new Palmetto Middle and Wren Middle Schools on the same properties while keeping the newest wings and incorporating them into the new building.
Additional classrooms will be added at five schools that are at or over student capacity.
Cedar Grove Elementary, Powdersville Elementary and Spearman Elementary will each get a new eight room addition. Powdersville Middle will get a ten room addition and the District’s newest school, Powdersville High will get a 10 room addition and a multipurpose room.
Critical renovations will be made at Palmetto and Wren High including ADA compliance renovations, upgraded restrooms, tile, paint and others.
Renovations at the Adult Education Building will include repair to windows, doors, floors and an auditorium HVAC.
Plans call for the repair or replacement of roofs at Concrete, Palmetto Elementary, Powdersville Elementary, West Pelzer Elementary, Wren Elementary, Powdersville Middle, Palmetto High and Wren High.
HVAC improvements will be made at Cedar Grove, Palmetto Elementary, West Pelzer, Wren Elementary, Wren High and Palmetto High.
A priority of the building program is safety and security, according to Binnicker. Plans call for an update or replacement of video cameras, access control doors and security software and creating secure vestibules at Hunt Meadows Elementary, Powdersville Elementary, Spearman Elementary, West Pelzer Elementary, Powdersville Middle, Palmetto High and Wren High.
Four schools, Palmetto High, Wren High, Palmetto Middle and Wren Middle, currently have separate buildings that require students to leave the main building. Plans call for the separate buildings to be connected to the main building.
If the referendum isn’t approved, the district said it would be forced to put portables at schools where enrollment has reached capacity and use what funds are available to make limited repairs and upgrades to the existing Palmetto and Wren Middle schools, which are respectively 67 and 63 years old. The buildings have surpassed their life expectancy and will require major improvements to electrical, mechanical/HVAC, plumbing, sewer, roofing and other infrastructure, Binnicker said. The cost to renovate the buildings equals or exceeds the cost of building new, according to Binnicker.
The most critical safety enhancements will be made with the limited funds available from the Local Option Sales Tax.
“Every student in the district will be positively affected by this building program,” Binnicker said.
Voters should note that three Anderson County voting precincts will be moved to new polling locations, beginning with the referendum voting.
The Piercetown, Pelzer, and West Pelzer precincts will be in new locations starting with the School District One Bond Referendum on April 30.
The changes for two of the precincts are due to a November settlement with the United States Department of Justice to ensure accessibility of polling locations to persons with disabilities, and one due to concerns over the location according to Anderson County Elections Director Katy Smith.
Pelzer and West Pelzer precincts moved due to the DOJ settlement agreement and Piercetown Precinct because the potential of traffic incidents getting in and out of the location.
The new polling locations are:
Precinct #068 West Pelzer will be at the West Pelzer Fire Department, 101 Main St., Pelzer.
Precinct # 051, Pelzer will be at Life Journey Church, 2 Wesleyan Dr., Pelzer.
Precinct #055, Piercetown will be at The Club at Brookstone,100 River Club Dr., Anderson.
In-house absentee voting ends Monday, Apr. 29.