Candidates Discuss Issues, $25 Million Referendum, At HC Chamber Forum

It’s a $25 million question that will be on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election in Hampton County: Do you approve of borrowing up to $25 million to build a new consolidated high school?

This question and many more were asked, discussed and answered at an October 4 Candidates Forum hosted by the HC Chamber of Commerce and the HC Arts Council at the Palmetto Theatre, Hampton.

School district officials were on hand to share information about the referendum, and candidates for various public offices gave timed answers to questions prepared by the Chamber of Commerce. Chamber board member and treasurer Michael DeWitt Jr. was the moderator while board member Michael Thomas was the official timekeeper.

Here’s a look at what the audience learned, and to watch the entire event, head to the video on the Hampton County Arts Facebook page.

After:Watch the video on the Hampton County Arts Facebook page.

The Hampton County School District has prepared an information flyer about the proposed new Consolidated High School.

Voters learn more about the $25 million high school referendum

During the public forum, Hampton County School District Superintendent Dr. Ronald Wilcox gave an informative presentation about the proposed new high school, as well as the $25 million bond referendum issue that will appear on the local ballot, while its staff handed out flyers to the public. .

At stake in this election are decisions that will impact the immediate future of public education in Hampton County. Not only will voters have the ability to select multiple members of the new consolidated school board through a new district/area voting plan, but citizens will also be able to vote yes or no in the school funding referendum.

Recently, the South Carolina Department of Education, through various funding sources, secured $52 million to help build the new Hampton County Consolidated High School, which will be located on Highway 601 southern United States, near Hampton Radio Station. But early estimates indicate the district would need about $20-25 million more to complete the desired project.

By state law, an SC school district cannot borrow more than eight percent of its estimated land value without voter approval in a referendum. The maximum amount HCSD can borrow without voter approval is $4.48 million, which school officials say would not be enough to build a comprehensive high school that would include a vocational training center. , an athletics complex and an auditorium.

The referendum question, as it will appear on the ballot, is:

“Is the Hampton County, South Carolina School District Board of Trustees (the “School District”) empowered to issue, at one time or from time to time, general school district bonds, d ‘a principal amount not to exceed $25,000,000, the proceeds of which will be used to finance a portion of the costs (including architectural, engineering, legal and related costs) of constructing and equipping a new school consolidated secondary school, including the acquisition of land? If the voter wishes to vote in favor of the question, select “Yes, in favor of the question”; if the voter wishes to vote against the question, select “No, opposed to the question”. Yes, in favor of the question No, opposed to the question.”

If the referendum is approved by voters, Wilcox and various school board members have publicly stated that district officials believe they can build this new school without raising taxes on county citizens.

School officials said at the forum that the new school will be built whether or not a majority of voters approve of the $25 million bond — but that $25 million will be the deciding factor in whether the new campus will include a career and technology center and other added and unadded features.

In addition to the Chamber Candidates Forum, Wilcox and school board members will attend several other public sessions, as well as the HC Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum on October 4 at the Palmetto Theater in Hampton.

“It’s about trying to convey information to the public about the new high school, communicating to people how we came to the decisions we made, and giving them an opportunity to ask questions,” said Wilcox. “All we can do is give them the facts and then they have to decide.”

The schedule of remaining public sessions includes:• Oct. 13 – Wade Hampton High School Forum 5:30 p.m. • Oct. 17 – Varnville City Hall 7 p.m. • Oct. 18 – Fennell Elementary – Yemassee Forum • Oct. 18 – Fennell Elementary – Regular Board Meeting HCSD Board 6:45pm • October 25 – Furman Public Meeting 6:00pm

The Hampton County School District has prepared this information flyer ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, which will include a question about the school bond referendum.

County council and school board candidates tackle pressing local issues

Candidates for each public office to be won on November 8 have been invited to the forum. The questions were prepared by the HC Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, with input from citizens. Each contestant was given several questions in advance to prepare, and some questions had to be answered without prior preparation.

Candidates for the county council

All of the county council candidates seemed to agree that the county needed a better plan to repay the sales tax funds from capital projects that had been misspent, and that overall , the county needed more fiscal transparency and accountability, but they each had their own ideas for achieving it. . County officials recently admitted that the county had spent millions of dollars on CPST trust funds, but their plan to repay the money was to simply cut costs and then use any excess at the end of each year. .

Allen Cook said a “fixed amount” for CPST reimbursement should be included in the budget for the year, and added that the council must stop “blocking” citizens and publish financial information, including requests for purchase orders, online before each meeting.

Jordan “JJ” Jinks agreed, but said more people need to attend county meetings and get involved. He added that Interstate 95 was our overlooked “golden ticket” to better finance, more industry, and better schools.

Camille Welch suggested a two-party system for writing all county checks and said she felt the county needed a new website, where it could post its check register, monthly financial reports and even lawsuits. -minutes of all county committee meetings.

Ashley Lawton said the county would go bankrupt in two years if changes were not made, and suggested posting the county’s draft budget online before approving it.

Darin Williams, the lone incumbent, was also in favor of more honesty and transparency and suggested the county hold more workshops, urging citizens to attend. He also addressed the issue of badly spent money, which was spent over a period of years, even when he was not in office.

“I’m going to try to do my best to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Williams said.

School Board Candidates

The school board candidates shared many of the same views on the issues discussed, but with their own unique ideas for implementing them, and commented on how students at the new high school could come together during The consolidation.

Teachers Debra Holmes and Kary Foy said it was a great opportunity for students to “establish new traditions” and “create their own legacies” while “branding” the new school. Shannon Ward added that community gatherings and better mentoring and parenting programs would also promote school unity when the two schools come together. Marsha Robinson also encouraged giving students a voice in decision-making and suggested community “support groups” during consolidation.

All candidates agreed that the district needed higher pay for bus drivers, as well as more bus monitors and security cameras. Maggie Knox suggested a more efficient bus stop schedule and plan and the use of a “homework club” for students who have to wait on buses in order to make good use of their time, and Robinson suggested more bus driver appreciation events.

The candidates also mutually agreed that teachers deserve higher pay, as well as better incentives, and offered ideas for recruitment and retention, including better communication and relations between administrators and teachers. teachers.

The challengers unanimously supported the idea of ​​using Wade Hampton High School as the county’s recreation facility after the new high school was built. Mary Green Wilson also suggested using Estill Primary School as a recreation complex for the Estill area.

The incumbents, however, while supportive, were more cautious in their responses. Foy and Holmes said they would potentially support the idea if there were no required educational uses for the campus.

The candidates were divided on the subject of the potential consolidation of the county’s elementary schools at a later date.

Other Hampton Counties, District Races

While outgoing SC representative Shedron Williams was unable to attend, challenger William Hager was on hand to discuss the importance of better leadership, workforce training and improving our roads and bridges. He added that the ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill and illegal immigration issues were among the most pressing state issues impacting the county, and suggested the county seek grants. to businesses and excess state tax funds to help fund a recreation center. Hager also stressed the importance of education and community pride.

Several candidates running for unopposed office in November (barring possible written entry), including HC Sheriff, HC Probate Judge and HC Coroner, were also allowed to address voters and share plans and ideas.

Sheriff-elect Anthony Russell has supported the publication of crime and budget reports in the name of transparency, as well as the creation of community groups to help law enforcement. He also plans to launch a new anonymous tip line and encouraged citizens to get involved, adding, “If you see something, say something.”

Coroner-elect Anna Fields plans to request more training for deputy coroners and make a county morgue one of her top priorities, while probate judge-elect Shannon Parker spoke about the office’s importance to citizens and its plans to serve them well.

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