My view: Clover school district should withdraw bond package

March 19, 2014 

CSD should withdraw bond package

I want to thank and commend the Clover School Board for their work and foresight to plan for the future population growth within the district.

However, as we move to the bond referendum on March 22, I have considered the proposed plans and have several thoughts to share.

First, the Clover School District is blessed to be one of the richest school districts in the state in assessed property value. However, that blessing does not give us the right to take advantage of the property owners, businesses and industries that pay to build, operate and maintain our schools. We have a responsibility to ourselves, fellow citizens, and most of all to our creator to be good stewards of those blessings.

The bond package includes two projects which I consider nice-to-have items, first, the renovations of various athletic facilities to include artificial turf and new scoreboards; and second, an aquatics and fitness center. According to the CSD Q&A page, the aquatics and fitness center “will feature two indoor pools, aerobic machines, a weight room, a basketball gym, racquetball court, and more. If funds are available after all other projects are complete, the plan includes a water park.”

These two projects (nice-to-have items) represent $20 million of the proposed projects. These facilities sound great but are they required for the education of our children? I know of no requirements for a high school diploma or entrance to higher level education institution requiring swimming or other sport qualification.

If the bond package passes, we are borrowing $67 million and our taxes will go up to pay this debt for the next 20 years. I was able to attend a presentation on the proposed projects, and we were led to believe that our taxes were decreasing as by comparing our 2007 tax rate to our 2014 tax rate.

Although the tax rate dropped, the new debt will result in an increase. In fact the Yes 4 Education group has posted on their Facebook page an apology for this misrepresentation: “We realize that there is some confusion about the tax implications of this bond. Let us clarify as we have done in our presentations and previously on this page openly: We have always been transparent that there is an increase and pointed out that the boards timing is ideal to lower the burden due to favorable rates. CSD currently has one bond open which is the 2007 bond (for OMS and Larne) which has 13 years remaining. If this bond is successful, CSD will have two bonds running. However we have never stated that borrowing $67 million would not require an increase. As we approach the vote we have been able to estimate that the impact of the bond, if passed, will increase taxes $50 per $100,000 in value. That would make 2015 taxes the third lowest year of taxes in the past eight (2008 to 2012 are higher).”

If you are a business owner, investment property owner, or industry, your tax increase will be more due to business and industries having to pay the additional operational expenses of these new facilities.

It is estimated that the businesses, industries, and investment property owners could see their tax increase be as much as $75 per $100,000 of value. I do not know what economy that you have been living in the past six years, but the average income in America continues to drop. Some people continue to state that we do not have any inflation, but I ask you to look at the price of gas per gallon since 2007 and what about food? If you have not noticed these price increases, then you are wealthy and do not worry about how much money you spend.

Are you willing to commit to this debt obligation and pay for these nice-to-have facilities for 20 years? Remember whoever holds your debt owns you.

In addition, although it has been presented that the YMCA will operate and maintain the aquatics and fitness center, no agreement has been finalized. From the CSD’s Bond information page it states “Day-to-day operation costs (chemicals, utilities, staffing, etc.) will be the responsibility of the UPYMCA. Nothing is final, but discussions continue with the Y to determine a revenue share back to the district that could be allocated for scheduled building maintenance (replacement of dehumidifier, roof, etc. that would be responsibility of CSD).”

Even with an agreement, the taxpayers will probably be responsible for the capital and maintenance cost of the facility. If you have to replace the equipment in the facility, the maintenance of the grounds, parking lots, roof replacements, etc. will be the responsibility of the taxpayers (see the statement from the CSD’s spokesperson). Because the taxpayers will own the facility, we will be responsible for all the liability. Remember if memberships and fees from outside users are not enough to cover the operating costs, the taxpayers will have to step up to the plate and subsidize the operations.

I do not appreciate that I am left with little choice but to vote against the bond package due to the nice-to-have items. I could support the package if it excluded these two nice-to-have items and accept the tax increases that I would have in order to pay for the required educational facilities.

I respectfully request that the CSD Board withdraw the bond referendum and offer voters a referendum that only includes the educational facilities, a $47 million bond package. Each voter needs to carefully consider the bond package and remember this is your money and would you spend it this way?

Dennis Cameron

Clover

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