What is the new building plan for the Pelion Attendance Area?

The building plan calls for a new middle school. It would be a 1,500-student capacity Grade 6–8 middle school and open in the 2021–2022 school year. The district would build it on property it owns next to Pelion High School.

Part of the current Pelion Middle School would become a 4-Year-Old Kindergarten Learning Center. If there is available space after the 4K Learning Center opens, the district would investigate the possibility of collaborating with the Town of Pelion and some other agencies to offer other services at that location.

The new building plan for the Gilbert Attendance Area confuses me. Can you explain it again?

The building plan calls for a new elementary school. It would be a 1,000-student capacity 5K–Grade 5 elementary school and open in the 2020–2021 school year. The district would build the school on property it owns on Highway #1.

The current Gilbert Primary School (4K–Grade 2) would become a 5K–Grade 5 school called Gilbert Elementary School. The new school on Highway #1 would have its own name.

This would create two 5K-Grade 5 elementary schools to serve the current and future student growth in Gilbert.

After the new school opens, part of the current Gilbert Elementary School (Grade 3–5) would become a 4-Year-Old Kindergarten Learning Center. The district is investigating the possibility of also partnering with the Town of Gilbert and some other agencies to offer other services at that location.

Are the schools built in the most efficient and economical manner?

Lexington County School District One builds its schools as efficiently and economically as possible. New schools and any renovations to existing facilities must meet earthquake code standards, fire marshal codes and international building codes.

We really work to make new school buildings cost efficient and have already cut the cost of our new school buildings significantly.

  • We do this by using the same basic design or prototype and building the same school building (with site adaptations) over and over. We try to do that whenever possible to save money on design, etc. However, we still have to adapt whatever plan we use to the site where we are building the school. And, we can’t use the same plans all the time, however, because school programs and needs change, too.
  • We look at the overall total cost not just of building a new school but also of owning that building over time. For instance, what will be the long-term cost to heat and cool a building, what will be its impact on the environment, etc.
  • We also go over the specifications many times and make changes where we can save money. For instance, we may know that a certain type of window is equally good but less expensive and will ask that the contractor substitute that window.

How did the district decide how many schools, etc., it needed?

Earlier this year, the district formed a Facilities Study Committee made up of 115 business leaders, community members, parents, staff and students.

The committee met four times and considered a long-range growth analysis of the district’s attendance areas conducted by Milone and Macbroom and a long-range facilities improvement plan carefully developed by M.B. Kahn — as well as the overall needs of the district, class size, school size, type of facility, etc. and presented its recommendations to the school board in formal presentations at the May 15, July 17 and August 7 Board Meetings.

The committee recommended that the district move forward with the plan and pursue funding for these projects through a bond referendum.

How did we get to $365 million and 14 mills in this 2018 bond referendum from the original $393 million and 19 mills that the Facilities Study Committee recommended?

Once the 2018 Facilities Study Committee identified the list of projects that needed to be done in this five-year building program, we were able to begin taking care of some these projects over the summer with existing capital funds.

We also reduced the amount allocated for ongoing maintenance projects such as air conditioning and heat, parking lot or roof repairs for the 5.2 million square feet of facilities we currently have.

We also pushed some projects (roofs, technology funding needs) originally planned for year five in this 2018 bond referendum out into the future. They will be top priorities in our next building plan.

How much does a portable cost now?

A single classroom portable costs as much as $80,000. Obviously, portables with two classrooms or kindergarten classrooms cost more. It costs an additional $10,000 per portable classroom to set it up, run electricity to it, furnish it, etc.

I don’t see any maintenance money in this bond referendum. What happens if you have an emergency repair?

Our current millage includes some funding to pay for maintenance needs such as air conditioning and heat, parking lot or roof repairs for the 5.2 million square feet of facilities we currently have.

Is the district using all its facilities now?

Yes. In fact, the district currently owns 170 portable classrooms, the equivalent of three schools. During the 2018–2019 school year, the district will use all of those portable classrooms.

The number of portables at each facility follows: Carolina Springs Elementary 20, Carolina Springs Middle 4, Forts Pond Elementary 5, Gilbert Primary 5, Lake Murray Elementary 4, Lexington Middle 4, Meadow Glen Elementary 12, Meadow Glen Middle 7, Midway Elementary 5, Oak Grove Elementary 6, Pelion Elementary 7, Pelion Middle 1, Pleasant Hill Elementary 24, Pleasant Hill Middle 13, Red Bank Elementary 13, Rosenwald Community Learning Center 14, White Knoll Elementary 6, White Knoll High 15, White Knoll Middle 1 and Transportation 4.

Just how fast is the district growing?

Lexington District One serves more than 26,300 students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 with more than 3,750 employees (not including substitutes) and 30 schools (17 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 5 high schools, 1 technology center). The district also has an alternative learning program called Alternative Educational Services.

During the past 10 years (2008–2018), Lexington District One grew 5,052, an average of 505 new students per year and built seven new schools (DES, FPES, MGES, MGMS, NPES, RBHS, RCES).

During the 2017–2018 school year the district grew by more than 600 students in 5-year-old Kindergarten through Grade 12 and is currently serving more than 764 3- and 4-year-old students.

We remain one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, ranking sixth in total enrollment.

To keep up with this tremendous growth, Lexington District One has built 15 new schools since 1997. Even so, the district still uses 170 portables.

What is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum is an election held to give the residents of a school district the opportunity to give that school district permission to borrow money to expand/renovate school buildings or build new schools. State law requires voter approval for the district to borrow more than eight percent of the assessed value of all property in the district.

What is a mill worth in a school district?

The value of a mill is one one-thousandth of the total assessed value of the property located in that school district.

The number of businesses located in the district versus the number of homes located in the district impact the value of that mill. For instance, Lexington District One is made up about half homes and half businesses. Other school districts may have more businesses than homes which increases the value of a mill in that district.

What is the amount of this bond referendum?

The district is asking voters for permission to borrow $365 million in general obligation bonds.

What is the real cost associated with opening and operating a new school?

The district will incur many of the costs associated with opening a new school (utilities, salaries for housekeepers, principal, assistant principals, school nurse, custodians, food service employees, librarians, etc. ) even if we don’t build and open new schools.

For example, as we add students, we add teachers. We need classrooms for those teachers. We buy portables. Those portables use electricity and water and have the same types of utility costs associated with them. We add administrators and housekeepers and other employees as the number of students rises at a school.

Portables historically only last about 20 years and have much higher utilities costs per square foot to maintain, while a school can last 75 to 100 years and has lower utilities costs per square foot.

What is this school bond referendum going to cost me? Will my taxes increase?

In order to fund the $365 million bond referendum, residents with homes valued at $100,000 could expect to pay about $56 ($4 per mill times 14 mills) more a year in property taxes or about $4.67 more per month.

Business owners with businesses valued at $100,000 could expect to pay less than $84 ($6 per mill times 14 mills) more a year in property taxes or about $7 more per month.

When the last bond referendum passed in 2008, we said that we would not raise millage more than 12 mills during that building program. Eight years after the passage of the 2008 bond referendum (2016), the millage was actually 2 mills less than it was in 2008 when the bond referendum passed.

What other things cause a change in millage?

The district strives to be a good steward of taxpayers dollars. We only raise millage when it is absolutely necessary.

Cuts or reductions in state or federal funding, and changes in program requirements can force the district to raise the operating millage used to fund the general fund budget.

Homeowners pay no millage on their primary residence on the operating side of the budget due to Act 388, which instead puts all of the burden on businesses and any other 6 percent assessed property.

The tax relief credit received from the Lexington County Property Tax Relief Act, a one cent sales tax credit, offsets more than half of the debt service millage.

What will the $365 million bond referendum cover?

1. Updated Safety and Security Systems at all District Schools and Facilities

2. Three new schools to replace old schools and increase student capacity

— A new elementary school to replace Gilbert Elementary School (opened in 1932)
— A new middle school to replace Lexington Middle School (opened in 1957)
— A new middle school to replace Pelion Middle School (opened in 1952)

3. Two new elementary schools needed to accommodate student growth

— A new elementary school in the River Bluff High School attendance area
— A new elementary school in the White Knoll High School attendance area

4. Renovations, additions and/or other upgrades to 14 elementary schools

— Carolina Springs Elementary School
— Forts Pond Elementary School
— Gilbert Primary School
— Lexington Elementary School
— Lake Murray Elementary School
— Meadow Glen Elementary School
— Midway Elementary School
— New Providence Elementary School
— Oak Grove Elementary School
— Pelion Elementary School
— Pleasant Hill Elementary School
— Red Bank Elementary School
— Saxe Gotha Elementary School
— White Knoll Elementary School

5. Renovations, additions and/or other upgrades to five middle schools

— Carolina Springs Middle School
— Gilbert Middle School
— Meadow Glen Middle School
— Pleasant Hill Middle School
— White Knoll Middle School

6. Renovations, additions and/or other upgrades to five high schools

— Gilbert High School
— Lexington High School
— Pelion High School
— River Bluff High School
— White Knoll High School

7. Renovations, additions and/or other upgrades to two other schools and one building

— District Maintenance Facility
— Lexington Technology Center School
— Rosenwald Community Learning Center

8. A new District Transportation Facility (design, build, equip, furnish, land purchase)

Information technology equipment and miscellaneous furniture to create “Future Ready Classrooms” at all schools and to meet needs at other district facilities. Future Ready Classrooms will be equipped with the most current technology and furnishings that support collaborative learning and enhance communication among students and teachers for the near future.

9. Renovations, additions, equipment, furniture and/or other upgrades to meet needs at other district schools (as needs arise and if funds remain available)

When would the bonds from the $365 million bond referendum be paid?

We would sell bonds as needed to fund the construction projects. We project the maximum term on these bonds to be about 25 years or less dependent upon market conditions at the time of the sale. They would, however, be paid off by 2044.

Projected costs for these bonds were based on different schedules with the longest being 25 years. They all have about a 5% rate on the bonds. In fact, several of the existing bonds were sold at almost a zero effective rate.

If the market is better than projected, we may be able to structure the repayment schedule to pay off the bonds earlier.

Why can’t attendance lines be redrawn to handle the growth?

The district redrew attendance lines for several elementary and middle schools in the Lexington and River Bluff attendance areas as part of its 5-Year Facilities Growth Plan. Those new attendance lines took effect in the 2017–2018 academic school year and spread out students among schools with more available space.

The district also began construction on a new middle school on Highway 378 designed with core facilities such as cafeteria, restrooms, library, gymnasium, hallways, etc. to house about 1,500 students.

Even if the district shifted attendance lines again, it would still not have enough space. More importantly, the district would not be able to offer the quality of educational experiences it currently offers its student such as World Language immersion, Code to the Future, the Google Partnership–the Dynamic Learning Project, International Baccalaureate, Blended Learning, Industry Certifications, Dual Credit offerings and Expeditionary Learning.

Why did the board want to reduce the amount of the 2018 bond referendum?

The board recognizes that Act 388 places an unfair burden on small business owners.

The board heard these concerns from small business owners, the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce and others.

While the district has no direct control over Act 388, the board did the one thing it could do and directed administrators to reduce the impact of taxes on small businesses and the community while maintaining the overall integrity of the building plan.

Why does the district propose building new schools instead of buying more portables?

Since we know we continue to grow at least 500 students per year, even if we added more portables at schools we would soon push those schools beyond their capacity to effectively serve that many students. For instance, the core facilities at each school, things like the cafeteria, media center and restrooms, are designed to serve a certain number of children.

Furthermore, 19 of the district’s school sites already have some of the district’s 170 portable classrooms on their sites.

Some of these portables have been in use more than 20 years, are beginning to wear out and need frequent repairs. On the other hand, the school we build should last at least 75 years.

And, some of our schools have no land left on their site where they can add more portables.

In addition, portables don’t provide the same level of safety in bad weather. When we have high winds, we bring students from the portables into the main buildings until the storm passes.

Even if we did not build new schools, we would still have cost increases in the district’s operating or general fund budget such as the costs related to hiring teachers to teach the new students.

If those new teachers had to teach in portables, we would buy those portables and provide electricity, furniture, teaching supplies, etc. to those portables.

Will the additions encompass future growth as well as current overpopulation so that we don’t have new schools built with portables added within the first year?

We certainly hope so. We anticipate adding almost 5,000 seats for additional students with the proposed building plan.

The district will build these new schools to hold more students than in the past (elementary 1,000 and middle 1,500).

This building plan places the district in a strong position as it faces future growth.