School board delays capital needs vote

EASLEY — The Pickens County School board didn’t take a third and final vote on the district’s capital needs plan Monday night as scheduled.

The school district announced last week that the special called board meeting scheduled for Monday was canceled at the recommendation of its financial advisor. Third and final reading is now expected to take place after the refinancing of the installment purchase revenue bonds for the building program is complete, meaning it would most likely happen prior to July 2015.

“Delaying the third vote for the capital needs plan will allow board members more time for three things,” school board chairman Brian Swords said. “First, the board of trustees facilities committee will look at the capital needs plan in greater detail. Second, the board will have a more concrete idea of how much money will be saved by refinancing. Third, the board will have more time to finalize a strategic plan.”

School district superintendent Danny Merck recommended in late November that the school board approve the five-year plan for capital improvements — a plan that included a $5.8 million funding option resulting in a 4.8-mill tax increase. However, the board last week voted on second reading to approve a $3.2 million option deemed the moderate and more regressive of the three options under consideration, and one that does not feature a tax increase.

A dozen people representing the Concerned Citizens of Pickens County group stood outside the district office last Tuesday morning holding up signs and urging passage of the $5.8 million funding option. The plan has already secured three of the four board member votes necessary for approval, with one vote needed from either Henry Wilson, Phillip Bowers or Alex Saitta.

Now that the vote has been delayed, the school board will receive an update in January from the district’s financial advisor about refinancing. The refinancing is expected to occur between March and May of next year.

Prior to July, district officials say the board will have the opportunity to approve third reading of a capital needs plan with what they said will be “a clear knowledge of how much money will be saved through refinancing.”