"One of the state's pre-eminent school districts…"

Wow……obviously “THE” story in our community continues to be the upcoming Bond Referendum next Tuesday, November 6. (I think I’ve already had about 4 or 5 blog entries over the past month on this topic alone).

Today there were several opinions expressed in The State from members of our community. Below is a cut/paste from today’s Opinions/Letters page.

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District 5 building plan will give students right tools to succeed

I have now been serving on the District 5 Board of Trustees for five years. When I first ran for the board, only one of my children was in school. Now, all three of my children attend District 5 schools. Naturally, as a father, I want my children to get the best education possible. I want the same for all District 5 children.

During the past five years, our school buildings have not kept up with our enrollment growth and, equally important, the instructional needs of our students.

In 2003, a study was done that recommended making some additions and renovations in a few of our schools along with the construction of a new high school, a new middle school and two new elementary schools. Since that time, the only major project completed has been the construction of one new elementary school, Oak Pointe. It is a wonderful school. I want every student in our district to have access to the types of great classrooms we have at Oak Pointe.

When the 2003 study recommended a new high school, the cost was $56 million. Today, due to escalating construction costs and the price of oil, the cost of that new high school is $86 million.

On that one project alone, we could have saved more than $30 million of your tax dollars if we had acted at that time. In fact, when you add up the cost of all the projects that were not done based upon that recommendation, the escalation in costs tops $100 million. That is a lot of your tax dollars wasted.

This Nov. 6 we need to do what we should have done several years ago and vote to approve our building plan.

There are some who will try to convince you that District 5 is wasting your money even though we have received awards for our financial accountability at the state and national level for the past four years. There is nothing that will waste more of your tax dollars than delaying the construction of schools that we need to build today. How much more can we afford to waste?

It is time for us to reinvest in our existing schools throughout Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin. It is time to build our new Career and Technology Center. It is time to provide enough classroom space so that we can eliminate our over-reliance on portable classrooms. It is time to reinvest in the future of our community.

There is an inseparable connection between the quality of schools, the value of our homes and the impact on our community businesses. In order for our community to thrive, we must have great schools.

I urge you to vote “yes” in the District 5 referendum. Support our children and our community!

ED WHITE
Columbia

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IN FOCUS: District 5 bond vote

• District can’t justify proposed referendum

On Nov. 6, voters in Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin will go to the polls to decide whether to fund a mammoth expansion plan for Lexington-Richland District 5.

The price tag for this year’s bond referendum — $256.5 million — is almost twice the size of the 2005 referendum. In the 2005 referendum, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $131 million plan, largely because the district administration failed to make a compelling case. Similarly, the administration has yet to offer any rationale for doubling the size of its wish list this year.

And then there’s the growth issue. Although the district hasn’t yet told the voters where the new schools would be built, the district just spent millions on acres of land in the most rural part of our district — Chapin’s Spring Hill community in Northwest Richland County. I don’t have to tell you why builders and developers so badly want the schools to be built on this site. When new schools are built in the wilderness, homes and commercial development soon follow. Schools built there only fuel growth.

Finally, there are expansion or renovation projects slated for almost every school in the district. Why? Projects in every school cluster would mobilize parents at every school. “This gives everybody a reason to come out and vote,” said board member Ed White.

For these reasons, the bond issue is simply not justified. A “no” vote on Nov. 6 will be in the taxpayers’ best interest.

WAYNE DUNCAN

Chapin

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• Growing district must maintain quality

I find it unbelievable that some people in this area believe that Chapin is not growing and the student population of our schools is not increasing.

Why are people moving to this area? I know why I did: I wanted my children to have the best education possible in a public school. I could have moved anywhere, but I chose Chapin for the schools and quality of life. I am sure most of the people in this area feel the same.

Unfortunately, excellence does not come cheaply. Neither does dinner at Applebee’s, Outback, Chili’s or any of the other restaurants at Harbison, but do you see them sitting empty? Ever notice all the cars at Columbiana Centre? Our property values are high because Chapin is not about cheap, or trying to scrimp and provide the minimum resources for our children’s education.

We want the best for our students, and in return, we get the best for our community. We do not want to keep putting more and more students in crowded schools. Let’s build new schools in the areas where people live. I have seen the portables, and I do not like them. Expand Chapin High? Expand where?

We should back our elected school board’s plan for the future and build the new schools that are needed. Let’s keep our school district at the top and not listen to those who are more concerned with their own pocketbooks than our children’s education. What happens to an area when the schools get overcrowded and start declining? Growth stops, and decay sets in.

Remember, you get what you pay for.

DOUG SATTERFIELD

Chapin

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• Fowler has done about-face since election

As a taxpayer who helped elect Jerry Fowler to the Lexington-Richland School District 5 Board, I was astonished to read his recent column in The State supporting our upcoming bond referendum. Since his election, Fowler seems to have undergone a metamorphosis reminiscent of the character in Kafka’s famed novella.

Fowler now says he opposed the 2005 referendum simply because it coincided with reassessment and “efforts of fund-raising associated with Hurricane Katrina and the uncertainty of several other economic factors.” Apparently having finalized Katrina fund-raising, he now favors the referendum, admitting “we have already wasted well over $100 million of your tax dollars in escalating construction costs and interest.” Would you buy flip-flops from this guy?

We who decisively defeated the 2005 bond referendum did not elect Fowler to spend “hundreds of hours” having his ear bent by education “professionals” and developers still intent on their self-serving agenda.

The victim of hyperbole and misinformation from Dennis McMahon and his minions a few years ago himself, Fowler now labels dissenting opinions as “propaganda” and “negative misinformation,” and calls expression of those opinions “a deliberate attempt to erode the quality of our school system and community.” This isn’t the man I voted for.

HARRIS P. KINDER

Columbia

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• Developers should help pay for new schools

While the need for more schools is more than evident, why is it that the homeowners must always bear the expense?

The area in which the new schools and improvements are needed is fast-growing. With more people moving in each year, and more homes and subdivisions being built, why not have the developers and general contractors pay for some of this $256.5 million?

In some areas of the country, developers of large subdivisions are required to build or provide funds (some, if not all) for new schools. This lessens the burden on existing schools.

The fees could be based on a percentage of the intended sales price of the new home. After all, homeowners in this area are looking forward to their property taxes going down.

The fees the contractors could pay may not seem like they would make much of a difference, but as they say, every little bit counts.

JERRI BREWER

Chapin