Aiken School Board invites public comment on facilities plan draft
Aiken County residents are invited to attend an Aiken County School Board meeting on Tuesday and give comments on a facilities projects draft that will be presented at the meeting at 7 p.m.
At a meeting last week, School Board members asked Deputy Superintendent David Caver to return this week with a preliminary recommendation of facility projects, their duration and estimated costs. The intent is to provide a draft, leading to a formal document that would appear as part of a penny sales referendum in November.
If such an election was successful, the School District could move more quickly on its projects related to aging facilities and maintenance needs. The referendum would be held at the same time as the general election of candidates for public office.
New revenue through the penny sales tax increase could generate $15 million to $20 million annually for seven years. The referendum ballot would provide accompanying information as to the anticipated revenue, the projects and how much they would cost.
The School Board and District administrators are altering their regular agenda structure for this meeting. Typically, the School Board allows opportunities for public participation. On this occasion, the public will be asked to comment on the draft plan following its presentation.
Board members readily have acknowledged they do not yet have the authority to even call for a sales tax referendum. The S.C. Senate is currently debating an amendment to an existing statue, that if approved would give the Aiken Board that authority. Yet that action would not occur until May at the earliest, said Board member Keith Liner, “and then we have to be ready to go” with the referendum process.
Again, the referendum ballot would include anticipated facility projects on which the public would vote up or down, said Board Vice Chairman Levi Green. The Board recently approved a five-year facilities plan, but additional revenue “could put some more projects on the that plan and others coming after the five year plan,” Green said.
• In other business, the Board will discuss last Friday's tour of the Columbia County schools, sponsored by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. Aiken residents, including School Board members, visited new schools that the Georgia county has funded in large part through an additional penny sales tax.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.