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Election 2016: School district will set priorities after bond approval

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

With $165 million in borrowing capacity approved by voters, the Georgetown County School District now has to decide where to start spending the funds on a package of renovations and additions to its facilities.

A school bond referendum passed Tuesday with 78 percent support. The bond had majority support in all 34 precincts.

“That’s pretty exciting,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “It wasn’t a hard sell. The work needs to be done.”

The district plans to maintain the current tax rate as it retires bonds issued following a 1997 referendum. Bob Dameron, the district’s financial advisor, expects that the new bonds will be issued incrementally as the district moves through its list of proposed projects. The next step is determining a schedule.

“The biggest question I have is: What comes first?” Dozier said.

The district has started looking at firms to manage the projects. Most of the work is renovation. New construction is primarily auxiliary gyms at the four high schools and Waccamaw Intermediate. There are also additions planned at the intermediate school and Waccamaw High. Dozier said the gyms and tennis courts planned for the high schools are what people ask about most often.

There are several forms of construction management that the district can choose, each altering the balance of control and accountability between the district and its contractors. The district will probably use a combination. “In the past, we kind of managed it ourselves,” Dozier said.

While voters approved the amount of the bonds the district can issue and the location of renovations and additions, they did not actually approve the facilities plan adopted by the school board. “There are chances to reallocate,” Dozier said. Some work that was initially part of the facilities plan has already been completed, such as stadium lights at Waccamaw High and a digital marquee at Waccamaw Middle. Following Hurricane Matthew last month, Dozier said he wants to consider making one school in each of the four attendance areas within the county “self-sufficient” so they can be used as shelters and provide community services after a storm.

The district is also likely to need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for its facilities plan under court-ordered desegregation that dates to the 1970s. A consent decree with the department gives it oversight in several areas of district operations. Although the district has let the Justice Department know about the facilities plan, it hasn’t been told if the plan will need to be reviewed.

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