Erroneous and Misleading

Dear Editor,

To my fellow taxpayers in School District 1 of Bamberg County:

There have been numerous statements made by citizens in the public meetings and printed by the Advertiser Herald regarding the upcoming School Bond Referendum that are erroneous and misleading. First of all, the $20 million of interest free stimulus money has to be paid back over 17 years and the $9million of Build America Bonds with interest has to be paid back over 25 years. We do not know what the interest rate will be on the $9 million of Build America Bonds; but we do know that 35% of the interest will be paid by the federal government. Nevertheless, if the interest on these Build America Bonds is only 4%, the taxpayers of this district will pay over $3,500,000 in interest.

Over 70% of the county property taxes we currently pay on vehicles, land, houses, boats etc. are for school taxes. If this referendum passes, in three years we will be paying 16%more in school taxes for the next 17 years to pay off the $20M interest free stimulus money and who knows how much we will be paying for the next 10 years after that to pay off the $9M in Build American Bonds which are NOT interest free. In addition to the 16% increase in our property taxes for school debt service, the operating cost for schools has gone up 9.2% over the last two years. Bamberg County currently has an 89% property tax collection rate which is one of the lowest in the state. When this collection rate goes lower because citizens can not afford to pay their taxes, the mills will increase proportionately for those that do pay taxes.

In neighboring Hampton County, the school debt service for District 1 is 21 Mills, District 2 is 27 Mills and in Colleton County the school debt service is 46.5Mills compared to our current 64 Mills and proposed 123.2Mills. In other words, for a $100,000 house in Hampton County District 1, the school debt service tax is $84 a year. The school debt taxes on that same house in Bamberg County School District 1 is currently $256 or 300%more a year and voting “Yes” to the Referendum will increase the school debt taxes to $492.80 or 587%more per year.

Lastly, Bamberg County School District 1 currently has approximately 1500 students enrolled. The total cost of this referendum means taxpayers are looking at over $21,660 per student in construction cost for a new school and repairs to two existing schools. Does this seem reasonable to you? If not, please vote NO on Tuesday, March 16 in the School Bond Referendum.

B. L. Harriett, Lodge, SC

The Truth is not being told

Dear Editor,

Concerning the school referendum, the truth is not being told about the whole thing, about the 29 million that they want to borrow. The 29 million has to be paid back. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s interest free. All of this has to be paid by the tax payers. DON’T THINK, oh it’s just 29 million, that has to be paid back. It’s all on our backs, not only that it’s wrong they had the nerve to go into a lent service which was held on 3-3-10 to politic the referendum in God’s house; and then tried to use scripture from God’s Holy Word to back their ideals to the people. Matt. 19:14, which reads, “But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They only used the first part of this scripture, which took it out of context. Suffer means ALLOW, so Jesus is saying allow my children to come unto me. We must have a childlike demeanor to come to Him, not a stubborn demeanor like the religious leaders and rulers had. It should not have been brought up in God’s House about the referendum; it was kind of like it said in Matt. 21:12-13 [12]And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the table of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. [13]And said unto them, it is written, My House Shall Be Called the House of Prayer; but Ye Have made It a Den of Thieves. So according to this scripture, going into God’s House and trying to sell a school referendum you turned it into a den of thieves. To top this off: to do this at a Lent service where we were there to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection is unpardonable!

Rev. Clyde Bearden, Clear Pond

The Pride is Back or is it

Dear Editor,

As a parent of a student in Bamberg School District One, a former employee of Bamberg School District One and, most importantly, a community member of Bamberg School District One, it frightens me to think of what will happen to our community in the long term if the March 16th bond referendum for a new K-6th grade school fails. I believe that ALL children (grandchildren, nieces, nephews) deserve to go to school in a better physical environment that will provide them with improved security, improved access to technology and improved classroom spaces. Older school buildings are truly limited in their ability to be renovated and retrofitted to meet the newer safety and technology standards. There are many districts in this state that have been replacing their older school facilities with newer facilities because of these costs. These communities also faced bond referendums and chose to pass them in order to improve the learning environment for their children. Shouldn’t the children of Bamberg County School District One know that their community supports them enough to actively make their educational experience a more positive one?

Is this a perfect time for a bond referendum? No. Is there ever a perfect time for a bond referendum? Probably not. Is the population at-large ever going to support their taxes increasing? Probably not. Am I excited about my taxes increasing? Certainly not. I will have to financially plan for this increase and make some sacrifices. Those sacrifices will be made willingly, though, for the betterment of this community at large and for those students and professionals who learn and work in our schools on a daily basis.

Our school buildings need replacing. We can do it now with interest free money. We can do it later at what will most assuredly be a higher cost. Nothing new is ever free. If we wait, though, will it be too late?

I want to believe in this community. Many people have worked hard to make it a better place to live. I believe the passage of this referendum will help improve this community. I believe if it fails it will be another loop in a downward spiral that this community will have brought upon itself. A few years ago many purchased and wore (and may still wear) shirts/sweatshirts to support our athletic teams that read “The Pride is Back.” Is it?

Carla Jowers, Bamberg, SC

A little now or a lot later

Dear Editor,

I first came to Bamberg in 1957 to attend Carlisle Military School. When I graduated in 1961 I had spent four very formative years in a boy/young man’s life because of the people and experiences enjoyed here.

Bamberg and Bamberg County have always been special to me, and fortunately I have been able to return, buying a home here in 2009.

None of my children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will attend school in Bamberg District I, but many of yours will. I feel compelled to address their future.

No one can deny the fact that our school buildings and facilities need to be replaced. The newest of our schools is over fifty years old. We are fortunate in that we now have a choice as to how to go about modernizing these aging buildings.

As I understand it, we can pass the upcoming referendum on March 16th allowing us to take advantage of federal funds available at this time, to help pay for a new elementary school. If we do nothing now, we will be forced to upgrade by the state in the foreseeable future when these federal funds are no longer available, and it will cost us much more. It seems like a “no brainer” tome: a little now or a lot later. And that’s only the practical side of the question.

Some people complain that our young people are leaving this area for greener pastures. Why do they look so green? JOBS! If we do not provide businesses with a well educated, motivated, and available work force right here these local pastures will never look green to those who provide the jobs.

Teachers and staff are a must, and we have good ones. Modern schools are also a must. We cannot give our children a 21st century education with outdated tools.

It’s not too late. Let’s put ourselves aside and do what's right for our District, our county and more and don’t forget the children. Let’s prepare then to be a success wherever they may go. If they stay here, help them make it a better place. If they leave let them be proud of where they come from and look forward to coming back.

Please! Vote “yes” for our schools, our children and our future on March 16th.

J. R. Fagon, Bamberg, SC

Where is the education lottery money

Dear Editor,

Here is my concern about the School Referendum in Bamberg County: Where is the education lottery money? It was my understanding that this money was supposed to be used to help educate the children of South Carolina. I haven’t seen any schools benefit from it. The only thing I have read or heard one time, was when a college received $109 million for a welcome center. This does not educate the first child. Why can't Bamberg draw from this treasure? Instead of building a welcome center, we could build a new school, which will take the pressure off the tax payers.

It is not the tax payer’s fault that the schools are in the shape they say it is in. I think it should fall on the shoulders of District One. They are the ones who let it get in this shape. At the last meeting, the district one representative said a new school would bring in industrial plants to this area. No, it will not! We let that slip through our fingers when we lost the bid on a new state of the art hospital. This would have brought in all kinds of industries. Before you build anything, you need to bring in industry which would help in funding a new school.

Now is the time to fix these schools instead of tearing them down. There’s no way you can tell me that these schools cannot be fixed like they are supposed to be, if you don’t keep your house up, it will fall down, also. Plus, I keep hearing about the schools being over fifty years old. What are they trying to say? Everybody over fifty should be put away?

Lewis W. Williford, Bamberg, SC

Vote for the future

Dear Editor,

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to give my advice to all of my many friends in School District One of Bamberg County who will be voting on the referendum on March 16.

This vote should be called, “The Vote for the Future!” as the future will be greatly affected by our vote on March 16.

Our tax burden will be greatly increased in the future unless we take advantage of the tax savings that are available by voting “Yes” on this referendum now. We MUST build a new school building due to the crowded conditions that are present now. Also, we MUST renovate several of the existing building which are very dilapidated with many of their roofs leaking badly with each rain creating a mold-related health threat and further deterioration of the building. It is not a question of whether we will do these things. They must be done and done soon.

We now have an offer from the federal government to loan us 20million dollars at no interest for 17 years using funds from the Stimulus Funds program and another 9 million at a very low interest from another fund offered by the federal government.

Many of you are concerned that your taxes will rise to unacceptable levels. This plan was developed by the board of trustees and approved unanimously. They are taxpayers, too, and feel that it is too good an opportunity to miss. It is true that taxes will go up moderately with this plan. It is estimated that a $50,000 residence which paid taxes of $465.90 in 2009 will now be taxed at $584.30, but far more 5 years from now without the loan advantage that we can get now.

There is the feeling of some that our industries will leave if the taxes go up. I feel that those who are the decision makers in those industries would like to see the local schools be as good as possible to attract those high quality potential employees to move to the area to live and educate their children. I feel that a quality school here will attract more industries for these reasons.

We cannot turn back time. These changes in our schools need to be made now! The cost will increase as time goes by. We need to start this process NOW by voting YES on March 16.

Michael C. Watson, MD, Member Vote Yes Committee