Lexington 4 seeking OK for arts center, renovations at Swansea High

Swansea High School
Swansea High School tdominick@thestate.com

Residents in the Gaston-Swansea area go to the polls next year to decide whether to approve a $25.4 million package of school improvements.

The plan approved by Lexington 4 School Board members this week includes a new performing arts center and renovations to sports and vocational education facilities, all at Swansea High.

It will mean a property tax hike of an as-yet undetermined amount, officials said.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 currently pays nothing. Lexington 4’s share of revenue from a countywide sales tax for education cancels out what would be a bill of $1,511, according to estimates by the county auditor’s office.

An advisory panel of teachers, parents of students and community leaders says the current facilities are outdated.

Growing interest in music, theater and art led to the push for a 1,200-seat center along with upgrades, primarily in baseball and softball fields, and other renovations that will increase space for vocational instruction, Superintendent Linda Lavender said.

The arts center would provide more space and allow larger audiences for events now held in the high school cafeteria, officials said. It also will be available for community use.

Two-thirds of the $25.4 million price tag is for the arts center and classroom renovations,with the remainder for athletics upgrades, officials said.

The November 2016 vote will be the first attempt to obtain voter approval for school improvements in Lexington 4 since voters OK’d a $19.8 million plan in 2007 that built an early childhood education center.

Lexington 4 is spread across small towns, scattered rural neighborhoods and farms in the southern edge of the county. It has limited commerce and industry.

The plan could be joined on the ballot by a countywide penny sales tax increase for roads that County Council is considering.

“People can decide what they want,” Councilman Jim Kinard of Swansea said. “Roads and education need improvement.”

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483

Lexington 4 at a glance:

Enrollment: 3,500

Cost of operation: $24.8 million for 2015-16 academic year

Staff: 420, nearly half of whom are teachers

Schools: 7 – three elementary schools, plus an intermediate, middle, 9th grade, and Swansea High

Area: Approximately 65 square miles

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