Horry County school board to meet Wednesday on building, funding options

vgrooms@thesunnews.comFebruary 3, 2014 

  • If you go

    What | Horry County school board special called meeting

    Why | To hear options on short-term capital plan and funding

    Where | Horry County Schools District Office, 335 Four Mile Road, Conway

    When | 11:30 a.m. Wednesday

The Horry County school board will be looking for details on Horry County Schools’ proposed new facilities – and how to pay for them – at a special called meeting set for Wednesday.

The district proposed amendments to the board’s short-term capital plan at the board’s Jan. 27 meeting -- which included the addition of at least two more middle schools -- but the board was given no details or financial information before the presentation. The district had been instructed to look at all schools that would be more than 100 percent capacity by 2018-19 and to develop a new plan to avoid overcrowding.

Chairman Joe DeFeo said the board needs to see how the new plan would play out and then to be given options on what can be done financially to move the projects forward.

“The board does not want to raise taxes, and we’re looking at any way possible to do this without raising taxes,” DeFeo said.

The board’s last revised short-term capital plan includes a new intermediate school (grades five and six) for the St. James attendance area, as well as additions to North Myrtle Beach Middle School, Forestbrook Middle School (or other type of capacity relief) and Midland Elementary School. The board also wants new facilities built for the Horry County Education Center, Myrtle Beach Intermediate School and Socastee Elementary School.

The district proposes a shift for some of those projects: in St. James, scrapping the new intermediate school in favor of building a new middle school, plus additions to Seaside and Burgess elementary schools; in Socastee, building a new middle school instead of adding on at Forestbrook Middle School; and in Myrtle Beach, moving the intermediate school into the current Myrtle Beach Middle School and building a new middle school facility.

Other amendments to the short-term plan include building a new middle school for the Carolina Forest attendance area and an addition to Aynor Middle School.

Board member Harvey Eisner said funding is one concern because suddenly they have one or two new middle schools to accommodate. He said his second concern is whether any proposed changes would delay or eliminate some long-term plans that already have been approved.

Those sentiments were echoed by Vice Chairman Neil James, who said he wants the district to share information with the board so everyone understands the protocol and the projections, and they can iron out the details.

“I don’t want the new schools that have just bubbled up to derail those we need as soon as possible,” James said. “I want to move forward.”

John Gardner, HCS executive director of accounting services, said he is working with financial advisers to determine what the cash needs are for the proposed projects, which would be built in the next five years, and how the district can obtain the funding. He said there will be several scenarios for the board to consider Wednesday, but he said Monday that staff was still working on them.

Board member Jeffrey Garland said the board needs to evaluate what the district needs most and get income sources on the table.

“We need to speed up the process on projects so we can figure out what we’re doing,” Garland said. “They’ve already started the budget process, and it’s late in the year to be adding a whole lot.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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