Charleston School Board to revisit referendum project list for sales tax extension

Photo illustration by Gill Guerry/Staff

The final list of Charleston County school construction projects tied to a referendum this November to extend a 1 percent sales tax may not be so final after all.

The Charleston County School Board has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to reconsider school building projects in McClellanville less than 24 hours before the deadline to file with the Charleston County Board of Elections. The deadline is noon on Friday. The special meeting follows a community meeting in McClellanville Tuesday where residents said they wanted a new school on the list.

The School Board approved a project list for the referendum last month that includes several projects in McClellanville. The list allocates funding to renovate St. James-Santee Elementary, improvements for career and technology education and funding to design plans for a renovation of the old McClellanville Middle School as a possible site for Lincoln High School.

But Thomas Colleton, chairman of the constituent school board for McClellanville, said the board voted earlier this year to build a new facility to replace Lincoln Middle-High School. During the meeting Tuesday, Colleton said community residents and leaders renewed their calls for a new school to house Lincoln Middle-High School's 171 students rather than a renovation.

"The community is steadfast in their desires," he said.

School board member Craig Ascue, who is among the members who called for the special meeting, said revisiting the projects is not a "knee jerk" reaction but rather reflects a desire among the board to be clear about what's on the list and what should be done for each project.

Ascue said he supports building a new school in McClellanville but that the issue is how to fund such a project and whether other projects could be funded through "alternative financing" instead of the sales tax.

"We have neglected that community for I don't know how long," he said. "My wish is for the community to come together around some of these projects so we can get them done."

School Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats feels that any last minute changes to the list is unfair and lacks transparency.

"It is only reasonable to tell the public what we are considering, and give them ample time to study and give us input," she said. "This item has been discussed in open workshops and has been on the last two public board agendas. Any changes to those actions deserve to be vetted correctly by staff and include input from all stakeholders."