The first projects set in motion will be additions at River Ridge Academy and May River High School

Beaufort County voters approve $344 million school bond referendum
Posted on 11/06/2019
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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Beaufort County voters approve
$344 million school bond referendum

BEAUFORT – Beaufort County voters today overwhelmingly approved a $344 million school bond referendum aimed at improving school safety, renovating facilities and adding classroom space to address enrollment growth.

Nearly 70 percent of voters approved the measure, according to unofficial results posted late Tuesday night on the website of the county’s Board of Voter Registration and Elections.

“This is the largest bond referendum in our district’s history, and its approval by such a large margin represents a strong show of support for our 22,000 students and their futures,” said Superintendent Frank Rodriguez.  “Our job now is to demonstrate to voters that their vote of confidence was deserved.  We have to complete these important projects on budget, and we have to do that in a straightforward and transparent fashion.”

Rodriguez said that after today’s results are certified by the Board of Voter Registration and Elections, several things will happen within a few weeks:

  • The Board of Education will select a financial adviser to guide the district in issuing the first bonds approved by the referendum.

  • An independent citizen-led committee of community volunteers will be selected to monitor the expenditures of all referendum-related funds.

  • A new website will allow parents and community members to track the progress of all referendum projects and review regular reports from the independent monitoring committee.

Beaufort County voters approved two separate ballot initiatives:

  • $290 million in safety and security upgrades at all district schools; technology infrastructure upgrades at schools district-wide; additions at River Ridge Academy and May River High; a replacement building for Robert Smalls International Academy; and renovations at three schools (Beaufort Elementary, Hilton Head Island Middle and Battery Creek High).

  • $54 million in Career and Technology Education expansions at Battery Creek and May River high schools; design work for renovations at Hilton Head Island High; improvements to athletic facilities at district middle and high schools; and playground improvements at early childhood centers, elementary and PreK-8 schools. 

The first projects set in motion will be additions at River Ridge Academy and May River High School because initial planning and design work has already been completed, said district Chief Operations Officer Robert Oetting.  Construction on those two projects will begin as soon as bond referendum funding is available, Oetting said.  Once construction begins, the estimated time of completion will be 10 months for the River Ridge Academy addition and 16 months for the May River High addition.

All of the projects were included in a comprehensive list of facilities needs identified earlier this year by an independent committee of county residents.  Members of the Community Project Review Committee visited 26 schools in Beaufort and other districts and received presentations from outside experts before producing the district-wide projects list.  CPRC members also received presentations from a safety and security consulting firm, a demographer, four architectural consultants, the Town of Bluffton, a playground equipment vendor, a furniture vendor and district staff.

After the CPRC identified $629 million in district-wide facilities needs, the Beaufort County Board of Education specified $344 million in projects for voters to consider in today’s referendum.

Rodriguez said growing school districts generally need to approve a bond referendum every four to five years to accommodate increasing enrollment and preserve existing facilities.  Beaufort County’s last successful bond referendum was 11 years ago.