Nearly $200 million Clover Schools bond referendum vote Saturday, town still split

Whether you cast your vote on Saturday, or already have, the outcome will make a big difference for the schools.
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 7:42 PM EDT
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CLOVER, S.C. (WBTV) - Saturday is the last day voters can vote for or against a massive school bond referendum in Clover, South Carolina.

This is the biggest bond the district has ever asked for - at just under $197 million. If this bond referendum passes, it will pay for three new schools - one elementary, middle and high school. This would be the eighth elementary school, the third middle school and the second high school in the district.

The Clover area is growing which is the leading reason why school leaders say this bond is needed. The school district says it is having trouble keeping up with the steady growth, especially in the classrooms.

The district is trying to keep from dealing with what are called “cart teachers.” It is when a teacher in one classroom has to leave for another teacher who carts the work into the temporary classroom. The teacher then carts out to another classroom to teach.

The new elementary school would open in the 2024-2025 school year. It would help alleviate growing populations at both Oakridge Elementary and Crowders Creek Elementary schools.

Instead of a brand new middle school, the ninth-grade campus at Clover High would be reverted back to a middle school, which it was before. This school would open in the 2025-2026 school year.

The bond also sets aside about $24 million to make renovations at Bethany Elementary and Clover High schools.

This comes at the cost of increased taxes. The entire project is supposed to cost $232 million with about $35 million coming from a capital projects fund.

The rest will come from the tax increase, which roughly equates to about $10 dollars for homes worth 100,000, $20 for homes worth 200,000 and $30 for 300,000.

While there is no exact number for the increase, people are against what is being called a major tax hike of about 30 percent for some. The increase is not to everyone’s overall taxes. Instead, it is an increase on the school debt service line item in the taxes that would increase to at least $120.

It is a decision that is dividing the Clover area - vote yes or vote no on the new school bond referendum.

”It’s super stressful because I want to make the right decision,” says Charlene Ridley, a parent. “My children mean everything to me.”

”I’m 100% for making sure the next generation and thereafter have a great school,” says Geoff Dubiski, a former parent who was also outspoken about the 2014 bond referendum.

Most parents, no matter the side, agree that overcrowding is a problem, but whether it is needed now or later is a big point of contention.

”That growth is beginning to outpace the new builds that went on. Now is a good time to ensure that the funding is available,” says Dubiski.

”So you can’t convince me that in three years when we’re overpopulated again you’re not gonna need more money. And that’s the issue,” says Ridley.

Ridley says she is 100 percent for schools. She also believes that many of the people she has talked to are the same way. She is voting no, even though she feels like the no can be turned into a yes.

At this point though, she is concerned about the plan being right. She wants more numbers, more discussion and a lot more time for voters to make what she calls a “huge decision.”

For most people voting no, their top reasons are: increased taxes, unnecessary spending and less information than what was needed. These are just some of the issues shared about the bond.

Another big point of contention was the date the vote was held on. Some people feel more money needs to be going into the classrooms, including spending it on more teachers for the district.

“Lots of people had no idea. What this meant that there would be an increase in taxes. They didn’t know,” says Ridley.

For people voting yes, their top reasons are: mobile units and high classes sizes will cost more, bond interest rates are low right now and investing in the students is important. Mobile units are temporary fixes or a “band-aid” as it has been referred to by Dubiski. Each unit will cost about $30,000 to $40,000, according to the school district.

Many critics of this, including Dubiski, feel it is a short-term solution.

Other ideas for why the bond should be passed include the idea that healthy schools are good for everyone in the long-term and a expanding schools increases extracurricular activities. Dubiski also shared that he believed the district was fiscally responsible and would only make the decision if they truly needed it.

”It lifts our community. It lifts our home prices. And at the end of the day we’re all in this together,” says Dubiski.

To be clear, most people voting no say they want to help the schools as well they just do not think this is the clearest path forward.

However, whether you cast your vote on Saturday, or already have, the outcome will make a big difference for the schools.

Spokesperson Bryan Dillion explained what could happen if the schools are not able to seal the deal.

”There isn’t an option to do nothing. So then we would have to reconvene and see if not this then what the taxpayers would be willing to support,” says Dillon.

The voting Saturday will start at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

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