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Florence must get more serious about education

on Wednesday, 20 February 2019. Posted in Letters to the Editor, Opinions

A defining moment in determining Florence’s competitive future in South Carolina will occur with the citizens’ vote in the school board referendum.

Recruitment of quality teachers and the replacement of the aging and disgraceful learning environments for our students are at stake in this referendum.

There have been articles and letters reflecting both pro and con opinions on this initiative. Let’s peel back the onion a bit more, drill down deeper, and look at some additional facts.

When Dr. O’Malley came on board as superintendent, the previous bond proposal was around $250 million. He reviewed all the scheduled construction plans and discovered significant inefficiencies in the designs. Dr. O’Malley redesigned many of the construction blueprints to create more financially sound estimates at $198 million. This superintendent is a fiscal hawk and can be trusted to manage the district’s finances.

Florence District One is the 2nd largest employer in Florence County, and one of the top economic drivers in Florence. The total annual personnel salaries in FSD1 equal $96 million, and the District paid $9.8 million to over 400 local businesses during the 2017-18 school year. Over $100 million of our school property taxes are being returned back into the business community.

The security, safety, and health of all the district’s students are being compromised by the use of 45 year-old vulnerable buildings and moldy, dilapidated mobile classrooms. The goal is to eliminate all 150 mobiles in this district.

Suggestions have been made regarding the District’s utilization of a sales tax method of raising the needed funds. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that counties’ attempts to use “special legislation” to impose sales taxes for school capital improvements were unconstitutional. The only exemption applied to the counties with $7 million in annual accommodations tax collections. FSD1 does not meet this threshold.

The South Carolina Association of Counties reveals that 27 counties have higher millage rates than Florence County, concluding that many more property owners outside Florence County are paying higher taxes than Florence residents, and in a state that is one of the lowest tax states in the country.

What would the message be from a failed referendum? Not only a negative perception to industry, potential teachers and professionals, but it will be especially disappointing to the children who would learn that the adults will not fund a better education for their future.

As an old TV ad states, “Just do the right thing.” We need to do the right thing now and vote YES on February 26. The 16,000 students and over 1,200 teachers in Florence will in gratitude say, “Thank You.”

Carroll Player Florence

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