Funding method for equipment, technology disputed at Berkeley County School Board
Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson said Tuesday he disagrees with a board member’s claims of ignorance that equipment and technology for the school improvement projects were not included in the $198 million Yes 4 Schools campaign, requiring an additional $53 million in special obligation bonds.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the financing option ... it is not accurate as a board member to state publicly that you were not informed or didn’t realize that equipment acquisition financing was to be used to fund a portion of the building needs in this district,” Thompson said.
The board passed the additional $53 million in May without discussion, and on June 11, when board member Phillip Obie asked to suspend that decision, Chairman Kent Murray ruled that it could not be discussed because it was not on the agenda. Obie later agreed to postpone the matter until July.
On Tuesday, Thompson provided the board with video copies of a July 24 board meeting during which Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini gave a presentation on the district’s building plan and said the proposal did not include “furnishings, fixtures, shelving, kitchen equipment, HVAC units, library shelving and smart boards, etc.,” Thompson said. Franchini said the equipment would be “purchased with equipment acquisition finance as part of existing debt capacity.”
During that meeting, Obie asked if the financing would cover all of the projects and how it would impact taxpayers.
Board member Doug Cooper agreed with Thompson that board members have been aware of the finance method for a while.
“It’s stunning when people say this was never revealed and never talked about,” he said. “It was talked about in a work session. I have a hard time understanding where all this confusion came from.”
Obie said after the meeting that he still believes the voting public thought $198 million covered the entire building program.
“I’m an elected official and I’ve been getting many phone calls and questions from my constituents,” he said. “Many folks don’t remember that at all during the campaign. (District officials) might have said it and that was it, but it was never brought up again. I don’t think they were transparent at all on conveying that message.”