Charleston County school officials are preparing to draw up a list of building projects for voters to consider in deciding this fall whether to extend a 1 percent sales tax.
Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday signed a bill into law that will allow the Charleston County School District to hold a referendum in November to extend its sales tax dedicated to capital projects for schools.
Charleston County voters approved the six-year tax in 2010, but without the new law, the school district wouldn't have been able to ask voters for an extension until 2016 when the tax expired. School officials have said waiting until the tax expired to ask for an extension would have delayed building projects because of uncertainty over funding. If voters approve the tax again it will be extended through 2022.
With the referendum now a go, the school board must finalize a project list and approve the language for the referendum, said Michael Bobby, chief financial officer for the school district. The board is scheduled to hold a workshop July 15 to begin whittling down a preliminary list of capital projects totaling $614 million to a final list for voters to consider. The district is estimating that a six-year extension of the tax would generate $540 million, of which $378 million would go toward major capital projects. The rest of the funds would be used for maintaining school buildings and technology.
The school board went over possible building projects during a workshop earlier this month based on the district's Capital Programs Master Plan. Among the building projects identified in the plan is a proposal in North Charleston to either build a new facility for Garrett Academy of Technology or a new center for advanced studies on the North Charleston High School campus.
The need for new schools in Mount Pleasant, where schools are overcrowded, will also be a focus for the board. A Mount Pleasant Town Council committee has also drafted a list of potential school projects to pitch to school officials.
"We know (schools are) one of the top reasons people move here," said Town Councilman Paul Gawrych, who is chairing the committee.
The committee is making several recommendations which include building a new elementary school to serve the Carolina Park development as well as a second high school at the old Wando High School campus on Mathis Ferry Road.
Gawrych said growth in the Carolina Park neighborhood is so explosive that a new elementary school there is expected to be at capacity as soon as it opens. Wando High School is over capacity by around 700 students.
The committee will take its recommendations to Town Council for a final endorsement at a meeting next month before providing the list of projects to the school district. The goal, Gawrych said, is to be a partner with the school district.
"We're going to see this through together," he said.
The school board is scheduled to vote on a final list of projects at its July 28 meeting. The district must submit the referendum to the Charleston County Board of Elections by Aug. 15.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.