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Chat calls community to action

Posted: October 9, 2012 - 12:48pm

Action is needed to find funding for repairs needed in Aiken County Schools, and Area 2 school board members Keith Liner and Ray Fleming are hopeful that community members will let their concerns be heard.

The school board members updated the North Augusta community on Sept. 27 at Nancy Carson Library on the options available for funding for renovations and repairs needed on Aiken County schools, but said that citizens have a louder voice than they do with legislators. With that in mind, they said that when they go to legislators on Nov. 12 and make proposals for funding that it would be more beneficial to have residents attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

The library meeting room was lined with drawings that showed the proposed master plan for construction at North Augusta High School, scheduled to begin next year at its current site. Fleming presented the different options available for acquiring funding to make the necessary renovations. It will take near $70 million to complete North Augusta High’s renovations, he said.

A referendum could be introduced, with the earliest vote in 2014, that would raise the millage on all property types. However, the 2010 referendum was not successful.

Another option is to seek voter approval to share Aiken County’s penny sales tax revenue, which would provide $3 million to $4 million a year, Fleming said. If it were approved, the second phase of construction at North Augusta High would begin in 2020, so it’s still not enough money to get things moving quickly, he said.

Other options discussed were: develop partnerships to share facilities, seek sponsors and donors, seek federal grants, pay current debt service off faster or do nothing.

If the district were to sit back and do nothing to gain new funding, North Augusta High would be completed near 2030, Fleming said.

“Do nothing is not conceivable,” he said.

The best option is to go to legislators to seek a district penny sales tax or Education Capital Improvement Penny Sales tax, both which would provide $18 million to $20 million annually, and would require a vote that would happen no earlier than 2014, Fleming said.

Aiken County has been conservative in past years, Fleming said, which is why they are now faced with aging schools and a lack of funding. For a while taxes were the second lowest in the state, he said.

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