DCSD votes to place bond referendum on ballot

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The Darlington County Board of Education approved sending a bond and capital sales tax referendum to voters in November to fund the construction of three new elementary schools to replace six aging school facilities in the school district. The bond, which will cost no more than $60 million, will be paid through a one-cent sales tax that will replace the expiring one-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2003.

The Darlington County School District (DCSD) has more than 2 million square feet of building space. The average age of DCSD’s 23 schools is 45.7 years. The average age of the district’s elementary schools is 55 years. Aging schools present challenges in maintenance, security measures, and the ability to handle current and future technological needs.

In 2012, the school district commissioned a master facilities plan. The plan included recommendations on renovating some schools as well as combining and closing others.

The Darlington County Board of Education has identified six schools that have aging facilities and smaller enrollments.

• Brunson-Dargan Eleme-ntary School (Darlington) – 51 years old

• Cain Elementary School (Darlington) – 51 years old

• Washington Street Ele-mentary School (Hartsville) – 55 years old

• West Hartsville Ele-mentary School (Hartsville) – 60 years old

• Spaulding Elementary School (Lamar) – 63 years old

• Lamar Elementary School (Lamar) – 68 years old

If voters approve the referendum in November, the DCSD will use fund balance to pay off the remaining debt from the 2003 penny sales tax referendum.

The new one-cent sales tax would begin after the old penny sales tax expired. In essence, the penny sales tax would continue, and consumers would not see a tax increase.

The Darlington County Board of Education considered several options to meet the facility needs of the district, including raising property taxes and alternate funding plans. Ultimately the Board decided the continuation of the penny sales tax would be the least onerous solution for taxpayers while still resulting in three new schools for the county. The Darlington County Board of Education has not raised operating millage for the school district in more than eight years.

The 2003 Bond:
• In 2003, Darlington County voters overwhelming approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for the $48 million bond to build three new schools and renovate several others. The bond was scheduled to mature in 2030.

• In 2014, through a combination of refinancing and repayment, the Darlington County Board of Education shortened the bond life by 12 years and saved taxpayers more than $32 million. As a result, the current penny sales tax is set to expire in 2018.

Since the last referendum:

• DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the state.

• In every high school in our district, more than nine out of every 10 high school freshmen will graduate in four years.

• We have introduced six new magnet programs in arts, as well as science and math.

• We’ve provided our teachers with laptops and equipped our schools with interactive whiteboards and wireless computer systems.

• Our Digital Transformation Project is nearing our goal of 1-to-1 personal computing devices for every student in our district, K-12.

• We have built three new schools, two cafeterias, many new classrooms and labs, media centers, and athletic facilities.

• The school district introduced an Expanded Choice program, giving our parents more control of their child’s education.

• The district now participates in the Community Eligibility Program, which allows all students to eat free breakfast and lunch at school.

• All campuses now have a School Resource Officer, and the number of nurses and social workers has increased significantly.

• The Darlington High School Early College program allows students to earn a high school diploma and an Associate Degree from Florence-Darlington Technical College.

• Hartsville High School became an International Baccalaureate School and enrollment in that program has continued to grow every year.

• The district now offers full-day four-year-old kindergarten.

• Robotics programs have been introduced throughout the district.

Darlington County School District Bond Resolution

A RESOLUTION

AUTHORIZING THE IMPOSITION OF A ONE PERCENT (1%) EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX WITHIN DARLINGTON COUNTY PURSUANT TO THE EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX ACT, SUBJECT TO APPROVAL BY REFERENDUM; TO DESIGNATE THE SPECIFIC EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS TO BE FUNDED WITH THE PROCEEDS OF THE SALES AND USE TAX; TO PROVIDE THE MAXIMUM TIME FOR WHICH THE SALE AND USE TAX WILL BE IMPOSED; TO ORDER REFERENDUM ON THE QUESTION OF APPROVING THE IMPOSITION OF THE SALES AND USE TAX; TO ORDER REFERENDUM ON THE QUESTION OF, SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF THE SALES AND USE TAX, THE ISSUANCE AND SALE OF NOT EXCEEDING $60,000,000 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT; TO PRESCRIBE THE CONTENTS OF THE BALLOT QUESTIONS IN THE REFERENDUM; AND OTHER MATTERS RELATING THERETO.

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE DARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF DARLINGTON COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. Findings. The Darlington County Board of Education (the “Board”), the governing body of The School District of Darlington County, South Carolina (the “School District”), hereby finds and determines as follows:

(a) The Education Capital Improvements Sales and Use Tax Act (the “Act”), codified as Title 4, Chapter 10, Article 4 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina 1976, as amended (the “Code”), authorizes school districts within the State of South Carolina, subject to the conditions specified in Section 4-10-470 of the Code, to impose a one percent sales and use tax within the county in which such school district is located to fund specific education capital improvements for the school district, either directly or to service general obligation debt incurred by the school district for such improvements, or a combination thereof.

(b) Section 4-10-425(A) of the Code provides that the sales and use tax authorized by the Act (the “Sales and Use Tax”) may be imposed in the county upon the adoption of an approving resolution by the board of trustees of the school district, and the subsequent approval of the imposition of the Sales and Use Tax by referendum open to all qualified electors residing in such county. The approving resolution must specify (i) the specific education capital improvements to be funded with proceeds of the Sales and Use Tax, either directly or through general obligation bonds repaid from proceeds of the tax or a combination thereof, (ii) the period, stated in calendar years, not to exceed fifteen years, for which the Sales and Use Tax may be imposed, (iii) the date of the referendum, and (iv) the question to appear on the referendum ballot which shall include each specific education capital improvement included in the resolution.

(c) The Board has determined, after due investigation, that certain capital improvements, consisting of three elementary schools (the “Education Capital Improvements”) are necessary within the School District and finds that it is in the best interests of the residents of the School District that the Education Capital Improvements be funded from the proceeds of the Sales and Use Tax, either directly, or through the payment of debt service on general obligation debt incurred to initially defray the costs of the Education Capital Improvements, or a combination thereof.

(d) The Board has also determined to submit in a referendum to the qualified electors residing in the District the question of the authorization of general obligation bonds to defray the cost of the Education Capital Improvements, so that such bonds, pursuant to the exemption provided in Article X, Section 15(5) of the Constitution of South Carolina, 1895 (the “Constitution”), may be issued without regard to the debt limit imposed by Article X, Section 15(6) of the Constitution. The Board is authorized by the provisions of Sections 59-71-10 et seq. of the Code (the “School Bond Act”) to conduct a referendum on the question of the issuance of general obligation bonds, and if the referendum results in favor of such issuance, to issue general obligation bonds pursuant to the terms of the School Bond Act.

(e) The Board further finds that Darlington County (the “County”) qualifies as a county in which the Sales and Use Tax may be imposed pursuant to the requirements of Section 4-10-470(C) of the Code, inasmuch as there was imposed in Darlington County a local sales and use to tax to fund educational capital improvements as of January 1, 2014 (the “Prior Sales Tax and Use Tax”).

(f) The Board has now determined to adopt this Resolution to authorize the imposition of the Sales and Use Tax authorized by the Act, subject to the approval of the imposition of the Sales and Use Tax by referendum open to all qualified electors residing in the County (the “Referendum”), to designate the Education Capital Improvements as the improvements to be funded with proceeds of the Sales and Use Tax, and to specify the period of time for which the tax may be imposed, the date of the Referendum, and the question to appear on the Referendum ballot, as well as to put before voters the qualified electors residing in the County the question of the authorization of general obligation bonds to initially defray the cost of the Education Capital Improvements.

(g) Mindful that Section 4-10-470(C) of the Code requires that the Prior Sales and Use Tax be terminated prior to the imposition of the Sales and Use Tax, the Board has determined that, if the Sales and Use Tax is approved in Referendum, the District will utilize funds currently available to it to provide for the defeasance (by the creation of an escrow to pay all principal and interest to become due) or redemption in full, on or before March 1, 2017, of the School District’s Series 2014 General Obligation Advanced Refunding and Improvement Bonds, Series 2014, which, pursuant to Section 5(B)(2) of Act 132 of the 2003 Acts and Joint Resolutions of the South Carolina General Assembly, will terminate the Prior Sales Tax and Use Tax, making the Sales and Use Tax the only sales and use tax for education capital improvements in the County as of the date of its imposition.

SECTION 2. Imposition of Sales and Use Tax and Designation of Education Capital Improvements. Pursuant to the authorization of the Act and subject to approval by Referendum as set forth in Section 4 below, the Board hereby imposes a one percent Sales and Use Tax to fund the Education Capital Improvements as defined in Section 1 herein, whether directly through expenditure of the proceeds of the Sales and Use Tax, through the payment of debt service on general obligation bonds issued by the School District to fund such capital improvements from the proceeds of the Sales and Use Tax, or a combination thereof:

SECTION 3. Duration of Tax. Subject to approval by the Referendum as set forth in Section 4 below and further subject to Section 4-10-430 of the Code, the Sales and Use Tax authorized herein shall be imposed for a period of 15 calendar years, terminating, if not earlier, on March 1, 2032.

SECTION 4. Ordering of Referendum. The Board hereby orders the holding of the Referendum, at which time which two (2) questions shall be presented to the qualified electors of Darlington County, Question 1 being a question on the imposition of the one percent Sales and Use Tax for a period of 15 calendar years for the purpose of funding the Education Capital Improvements; and Question 2 being a question on the issuance of not exceeding $60,000,000 in general obligation bonds, the proceeds of which bonds will be applied to initially defray the cost of the Education Capital Improvements. The Referendum shall be held at the general election on November 8, 2016, which is a general election meeting the requirements of Section 4-10-425(A) of the Code.

SECTION 5. Referendum Questions. The form of the questions to appear on the Referendum ballot shall read substantially as follows:

BALLOT QUESTION 1

EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND
USE TAX ACT REFERENDUM FOR DARLINGTON COUNTY

Must a special one percent sales and use tax be imposed in Darlington County for not more than 15 years with the revenue of the tax used to pay, directly or indirectly, the cost of the following education capital improvement projects in Darlington County:

Acquiring (including the acquisition of real property), constructing, furnishing, and equipping three (3) elementary schools in the School District of Darlington County, with one (1) such school to be located within or within five miles (measured in a straight line) of the municipal limits of each of the Town of Lamar, the City of Hartsville, and the City of Darlington, respectively.

All revenue received from the sales and use tax will be used to pay the costs of the education capital improvement projects described above and to pay debt service on general obligation bonds, if any, issued by School District of Darlington County to fund the education capital improvement projects described above.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

Those voting in favor of the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word “Yes”, and those voting against the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word “No”.

BALLOT QUESTION 2

ISSUANCE OF NOT EXCEEDING $60,000,000 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF DARLINGTON COUNTY

If the sales and use tax described in the preceding question is approved, shall the Darlington County Board of Education, the governing body of The School District of Darlington County, South Carolina be authorized to issue and sell, either as a single issue or as several issues, general obligation bonds of The School District of Darlington County in the principal amount of not exceeding $60,000,000 to defray the cost of issuance of such bonds and of the following improvements to the facilities of the District:

Acquiring (including the acquisition of real property), constructing, furnishing, and equipping three (3) elementary schools in the School District of Darlington County, with one (1) such school to be located within or within five miles (measured in a straight line) of the municipal limits of each of the Town of Lamar, the City of Hartsville, and the City of Darlington, respectively.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

Those voting in favor of the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word “Yes”, and those voting against the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word “No”.

SECTION 6. Election Authority. A certified copy of this Resolution shall be filed with the Darlington County Board of Elections and Voter Registration (the “Election Authority”) which shall be requested to conduct the Referendum on the questions of (1) the imposition of the Sales and Use Tax in the County and (2) authorizing the issuance and sale of not exceeding $60,000,000 general obligation bonds of the School District, both substantially in the form of the questions set forth in Section 5 hereof, and the Election Authority is hereby requested as follows:

(a) To join in the action of the School District in providing for the publication of Notice of Referendum in substantially the form attached hereto as Exhibit A;

(b) To arrange for polling places for each precinct within the County;

(c) To appoint Managers of Election;

(d) To conduct the Referendum, receive the returns thereof, canvass such returns, and declare the results thereof;

(e) To certify the results of the Referendum by resolution and within ten days thereafter file the resolution with the Clerk of Court for Darlington County and with the South Carolina Department of Revenue; and

(f) To take other steps and prepare such other means as shall be necessary or required by law in order to properly conduct the Referendum.

[Signatures appear on the following page]

DONE AND ADOPTED in meeting duly assembled this ____ day of August, 2016.

THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF DARLINGTON COUNTY

Chair, Darlington County Board of Education
ATTEST:

Secretary, Darlington County Board of Education

Author: Duane Childers

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