District 55 study breaks down tax impact of referendum

A study recently completed by Laurens County School District 55 breaks down the cost of a proposed bond referendum for property owners in Laurens County.

As part of the analysis, the district also put together a comparison of average property-tax rates in counties surrounding Laurens.

The proposed referendum requests taxpayers approve $109 million in bond issues to cover the cost of a new Laurens District High School and improvements of the current high school to be used as a middle school.

According to the report, taxes on a median value home in Laurens County of about $86,000 would increase by $77 per year if the referendum is passed. The increase in percentage of home value taxed would increase from .51 percent to .60 percent.

“The information cannot be exact because there are differences in millage rates based on municipalities, school districts, and local fees within a county, but LCSD 55 believes the information does provide a clear comparison based on the median tax rate and median home value in each county,” said Laurens County School District 55 spokesman Edward Murray.

The district held a series of four forums this past February to get input from the community.

During the forums and through other avenues, some local residents have pushed back on the proposed referendum due to the increases in taxes that would come with the construction an approved referendum.

After the forums, district officials took a step back, postponing the referendum from a potential voting date in May to September, while also appointing citizens committees to also study the matter.

“We know that our citizens are reluctant when considering any kind of tax increase, but we believe they see the need for new facilities in LCSD 55,” said District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters. “We also believe these numbers will ease the minds of many regarding the actual impact of the passage of the bond referendum on Sept. 5, 2017.

A facilities use and management study conducted in January by the S.C. Department of Education revealed that most District 55 facilities were judged as “fair,” which is defined as “marginally operational and/or acceptable but at the end of the material or systems useful life. The material or system is in the deferred maintenance stage and is at risk of failure.”

LDHS was give a rating of 3.2. Sanders Middle School received a 2.7, and Laurens Middle School a 3.0. Waterloo Elementary was the only school to receive a “good” rating at 4.0.

“The state report is consistent with our own facilities assessment, which was the basis for the bond referendum that is currently before the voters,” Peters said. “We believe we can address many of the facility concerns by building a new high school, consolidating at least Laurens and Sanders middle schools on the old high school campus (after some modifications) and completing necessary renovations at other schools with identified needs.

“This information was shared with the Facilities Projects Advisory Committee (FPAC) at its most recent meeting. We want to make sure they have all the data available to make an informed recommendation to the board and the community. They may have another solution, but it is clear that we need to do something to improve the majority of the facilities in LCSD 55.”

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