Florence voters say ‘No’ to Florence One bond proposal
FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence One Schools bond proposal failed 3 to 1 in Tuesday’s referendum.
In the referendum, 28.01 percent of registered voters, or 17,686 out 63,140, in the school district rejected the school district’s proposal to issue $198 million in general obligation bonds to build and renovate schools.
Out of 44 precincts, four voted yes in the referendum: Florence Precinct 1 at Mount Zion AME Church, Florence Precinct 9 at the Boys and Girls Club, Florence Precinct 10 at Williams Middle School and Spaulding at North Vista Elementary School.
Of these four precincts, two of them were won by two votes: Florence Precinct 9 and Spaulding. Florence Precinct 10 voted the strongest yes with a 32-28 vote.
Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley said in an email he’s “disappointed in the loss – but the voters have spoken and we will move forward to carry out their decision.”
Florence One Schools Board of Trustees Chairman Barry Townsend said the referendum proposal was a combination of two years of work that included community input, reducing the overall cost, focusing on security and consolidating schools.
“The board felt it had done a good job of balancing the needs of the district with the deisres of the community, so it is disappointing to see the voters not support this investment in our students and our community,” Townsend said in an email.
Townsend said despite the vote, the school district’s needs still need to be adressed.
“Despite the vote, our need to address safety, overcrowding and ongoing maintenance issues in our schools does not go away, however, so tomorrow we begin the process of regrouping and reprioritizing how we utilize the resources currently available to us to best serve our students,” Townsend said.
Townsend also said the district looks forward to working with local officials and leaders who expressed a desire during the referendum discussions to partner wtih the district to identify alternative means to fund the needs of students.
The Students First steering committee said in a written statement that it sought to inform the public on behalf of the students and teachers of Florence One Schools.
“We are disappointed that for the time being, the needs of those students and teachers are unable to be met. Today, the voters have spoken and it is clear they do not feel this plan is the best way for Florence District One to move forward,” the Students First email said.
The group also said it hopes that the message sent by the public during this process is clearly received by elected officials, and the organization will continue to advocate for students and teachers of Florence.
Ken Ard, the host of “Good Morning Pee Dee” on Live 95.3 FM and a former South Carolina lieutenant governor, said he was not surprised the proposal did not pass, but he was surprised by the margin of the vote.
“I think it’s unfair to say people are opposed to making improvements in education,” Ard said. “I can not speak for other people, and I am not going to try to speak for other people. The only thing I can speak for is myself, and my concern is being a lifelong citizen of Florence County and a locally elected official, a statewide elected official, I’ve always tried to consider the business interest of the community as its priority.”
Ard said he is completely supportive of public education but did not think the proposal was sound.
Morning News reporters Matthew Christian and Shamira McCray contributed to this report.