Aiken school bond vote might draw few voters today

AIKEN --- Low turnout is expected for today's Aiken County School District bond referendum, despite its having become a hot topic among residents.

About 25 percent to 30 percent of the county's 91,000 registered voters are expected to participate, said Stuart Bedenbaugh, the Aiken County Registration and Election executive director.

In the past few weeks, a citizen-run "Vote No" group has rallied against the "Vote Yes for Kids" campaign, operated by the nonprofit Public Education Partners, saying that the school board has not given residents enough notice or remained transparent on financials of the referendum.

This is the first referendum the school board has brought in 34 years. The last referendum appropriated funds to build Midland Valley and South Aiken high schools.

The school district has said it has limited ability to raise revenue on its current cyclical maintenance budget of about $14 million a year and therefore can't tackle any major construction.

All polling locations, except for the Beech Island Fire Department, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters zoned for the Beech Island Fire Department should vote at the Beech Island Community Center on Atomic Road. Call (803) 642-1528 for information.

$236 million bond issue to be on ballot Tuesday
Aiken County school board prepares to push bond
Board moves toward decision on bond vote
Middle schools’ fates still unsettled after new talks
What's in the proposal?

The school board has proposed a $236 million bond to:

- Build a new North Augusta High School: $80 million

- Renovate Aiken High School: $60 million

- Create Silver Bluff Middle School by combining New Ellenton and Jackson middle schools: $24 million

- Move Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle to a new facility at the site of Ridge Spring-Monetta High: $35 million

- Build a new Leavelle-McCampbell Middle on Bettis Academy Road: $22 million

- Upgrade Aiken County Career and Technology Center and career facilities in Area 4 high schools: $15 million

Aiken County school district bond referendum question

Notice of referendum $236,000,000 General obligation bonds The consolidated school district of Aiken County Notice is hereby given that a Referendum will be held in The Consolidated School District of Aiken County, South Carolina (the "School District"), on May 25, 2010, for the purpose of submitting to all persons qualified to vote in the School District, under the Constitution and laws of the State of South Carolina, the following question:

Shall the Board of Education of The Consolidated School District of Aiken County, South Carolina (the "School District"), be authorized to issue, at one time or from time to time, general obligation bonds of the School District in a principal amount not exceeding $236,000,000, the proceeds of which shall be used to finance the cost of land acquisition, constructing, improving, equipping (including technology), expanding, renovating and repairing school facilities within the School District, as follows:

* Aiken High School - Substantial renovations, rehabilitation and improvements at the current location

* North Augusta High School - Acquisition of land and constructing, equipping and furnishing a new school facility including athletic facilities

* Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle School - Constructing, equipping and furnishing a new school facility on the site of Ridge Spring-Monetta High School

* Leavelle McCampbell Middle School - Constructing, equipping and furnishing a new school facility on land presently available

* Aiken County Career and Technology Center - Renovations, improvements and additions at the current location and career and technology enhancements at Wagener-Salley and Ridge Spring-Monetta high schools (substantial improvement and rehabilitation)

* Jackson Middle School/New Ellenton Middle School - Constructing, equipping and furnishing a new consolidated school facility on existing Silver Bluff site

Such question is being submitted pursuant to Article X, Section 15 of the Constitution of the State of South Carolina, 1895, as amended; Section 11-27-50 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina 1976; Title 59, Chapter 71, Article 1, Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, as amended; and a Resolution of the Board of Trustees of the School District adopted March 9, 2010.

If a majority of the qualified electors of the School District voting in the Referendum approve the issuance of not exceeding $236,000,000 General Obligation Bonds (the "Bonds"), the Bonds may be issued by the School District either as a single issue or from time to time as several separate issues.

The Bonds (exclusive of refunding bonds) shall be issued within five (5) years of the date of the Referendum. The proceeds of the Bonds will be used to defray the costs (including architectural, engineering, legal and related fees) of land acquisition and constructing, improving, equipping (including technology), expanding, renovating and repairing school facilities within the School District.

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