BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Citizens are speaking out both for and against a school improvement referendum in Berkeley County. November's ballot will ask voters if they support a property tax hike, to pay for school improvements. Some say voting yes is an investment in the future, but others say it's a waste of money.
On Tuesday several local church pastors came out in support of the referendum.
When the bell rings and Goose Creek High School students switch classes, they're crammed in the halls in one part of the school building. If you head into the cafeteria, Yes 4 Schools supporters say it's overcrowded.
"You don't have to be an educator to understand that overcrowding is not conducive to the best educational environment," Yes 4 Schools co-chair John Matthews said.
Berkeley County's Yes 4 Schools campaign wants to make sure what they say are overcrowding problems are fixed district-wide. Supporters say voters who say yes to the $198 million bond referendum on November's ballot are supporting the building of five new schools and improvements of 29 existing schools. It will require a property tax increase.
"It will cost about $40 a year for every $100,000 property that's taxed in Berkeley County. That's less than a tank of gas if you have a small vehicle. The other point is if we don't do it, we're going to, as it has already been stated, we're going to end up having to convert classes, we won't be able to provide the technology that's needed," Matthews said.
For a business, a yes vote to the ballot question would mean an additional $600 a year.
Opposition has mounted against the referendum. The Berkeley County Citizens for Sustainable Education group says there are several reasons why they're concerned about how their tax money will be spent. Josh Whitley says the referendum finances wasteful projects, like pricey carpeting, and he says the district is padding the student population numbers.
"I'm concerned about the waste in this proposal. They're financing carpet for 23 years, who does that? That's irresponsible. And I'm concerned they're not being truthful about the information they're giving to voters. Enrollment numbers are not what they proclaim them to be. So how do we as voters trust them?" Whitley said.