May 22, 2014

Lexington 2 settles on $225 million school upgrade plan

The package – the first improvements sought for classrooms since 2002 – will go to voters for approval Nov. 4.

Lexington 2 School Board members settled Thursday on a $225 million plan for new schools and renovations.

The package – the first improvements sought for classrooms since 2002 – will go to voters for approval Nov. 4.

It includes $93.2 million for new facilities, $91 million for renovations, $37.9 million for related construction costs such as soil tests and land surveys and $2.9 million that may be used to buy sites.

The plan would add about $120 to the property tax bill of a home valued at $100,000 for taxes.

New facilities it would pay for include:

• Two new elementary schools – one at $31.4 million to consolidate Brook land-Cayce Grammar, Saluda River Academy for the Arts and Pineview Elementary – and the other at $25.9 million to merge Taylor Elementary and Davis Early Childhood Center.
• A $24.7 million vocational education center for high school students.
• A $11.2 million fine arts center seating 1,000.

Major repairs are planned at every school for problems like leaky roofs, outdated plumbing and wiring, inadequate ventilation, crowded cafeterias and insufficient digital technology as well as to increase security.

Some repairs would virtually rebuild some schools, especially Springdale Elementary and Fulmer Middle

The plan could be done in five years, school officials estimate.

Lexington 2 has 8,500 students in 16 schools – mostly built in the 1950s and 1960s – in Cayce, Pine Ridge, South Congaree, Springdale and West Columbia.

The ambitious plan was recommended by an advisory panel whose members said it is an overdue effort to modernize classrooms.

“God forbid if it doesn’t pass,” board member Cynthia Kessler said.

Board members also agreed to buy a 4.2-acre site adjoining Springdale Elementary for $318,000 after Superintendent Venus Holland said more space is needed for expansion of its eight-acre site.

The package could be one of two tax hikes on the ballot that voters in Lexington 2 neighborhoods and communities face this fall.

Lexington County officials are developing a referendum for a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase for road improvements and other projects.

In addition, Cayce officials are considering adding a 2 percent tax on dining out, takeout meals and snacks in their community.

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