SC

Shady Spartanburg Election

BOND REFERENDUM RAISES MANY QUESTIONS … SCANT MEDIA FOCUS There’s a bond referendum on the ballot in Spartanburg, S.C. this week – and all of the local officialdom is singing its praises.  The liberal local paper has offered the referendum its full-throated support – both editorially and in its exceedingly biased…

BOND REFERENDUM RAISES MANY QUESTIONS … SCANT MEDIA FOCUS

There’s a bond referendum on the ballot in Spartanburg, S.C. this week – and all of the local officialdom is singing its praises.  The liberal local paper has offered the referendum its full-throated support – both editorially and in its exceedingly biased “news” coverage.

“Spartanburg County School District 7 leaders have created a responsible and visionary plan for providing educational facilities to children in the district for the foreseeable future,” the paper opined this week.  “District residents should approve that plan in Tuesday’s referendum.”

Visionary?

“It makes little sense to vote no,” the editorial added.

Meanwhile a front-page “news story” on the referendum touted its support from “ministers, political leaders and community members.”  The old “bandwagon effect.”

What’s on the line here?  A whopping $185 million in new borrowing – which will be paid off via higher property taxes on owner-occupied homes, vehicles and commercial/ rental property.  What do officials propose to spend that money on?  More cathedrals of failure … 

Here’s the thing, though: We’ve spoken to conservative and liberal activists in the Spartanburg area – and they’re telling us the same thing.

Something’s “off” with this election.

What gives?

First of all, there’s been an embarrassing lack of scrutiny regarding the basic financial underpinnings of this deal, the process by which it has been approved for a low-turnout election date and the special interests pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Seriously: Isn’t it the job of local media to dig on referendums this?  As opposed to cheerleading for them?

First of all, if you remember your recent history Spartanburg School District 7 (yes, they have seven friggin’ school districts in one county) was the bureaucracy busted seven years ago using tax dollars to install a new putting green at the private country club where its school board members played golf.

That’s rightthey used public tax money to install a putting green at the bureaucrats’ private country club.

Unreal …

First, let’s look at the financials of the deal.  While the $185 million covers the construction phase of the bond, it’s far from the total tab.  That’s closer to $500 million.  Also, the tax hike that’s being discussed in the media would only last through the construction phase.  In 2023, the hike would dramatically climb – and stay at its elevated level through 2047.

“If you own a $100,000 home you should get a $256 tax decrease. But that won’t happen if this boondoggle passes,” tax hike opponent and retired U.S. Navy officer Barry Hull wrote on his Facebook page.  “Your taxes, for this bond package alone, on a $100,000 home will go up an additional $296 per year.  And that tax applies to all other property as well, so your overall tax burden will be much higher.”

According to Hull, the justification for this exorbitant tax hike is dubious at best.  At worst, he claims it is a deliberate dereliction of the district’s obligations to current students – all in an effort to fabricate the need for costly new structures.

“Humans have been plugging leaks in roofs, repairing drafty rooms and cleaning mold for thousands of years. It’s actually not that difficult,” Hull wrote.  “So the next question might be, ‘Why would they let the roof leak when the repair is easy?’ The answer is because letting your current building fall into a state of disrepair is the best way to get a construction bond passed.”

That’s true …

Hull also ripped the engineering firm who conducted a “facilities study” in advance of the referendum.

“They conclude we need a new school because that conclusion puts millions of dollars in their pocket,” he wrote. “Actual engineers determined the complaints to be cosmetic, NOT structural, and easily remedied.”

Hull also questioned the proximity of a pair of school board members to the deal – alleging direct financial conflicts that have gone completely unreported by the local liberal media.  Specifically, he accused one board member of profiting from the real estate transactions associated with the deal and another of profiting from the construction contracts.

Both board members voted to put the referendum on the ballot, incidentally – and neither conflict has been mentioned once by the local liberal press.

“No one likes to be duped, but unfortunately the slick talkers on the proponent committee have done just that,” Hull concluded.  “They have duped many good people into believing that this is about the education of our children. It is not. It is about lining the pockets of fat cats and cronies with hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars while leaving future generations to pay the debt. And all the while telling us it’s ‘for the children.'”

Conservative activists aren’t the only ones questioning the cost, timing and motivation of this referendum.

“All the pro-referendum people are saying, ‘Oh, it’s the tea party complaining,'” one liberal activist told us.  “I’m not in the Tea Party and I think they are raising justified conflicts that at least should be looked into.”

The activist also questioned the referendum’s call for a new elementary school to be located in the midst of some recently-renovated mill apartments.  The location of the proposed school has many questioning whether favor is being shown to a politically-connected development firm.

Not only that, there’s the question of the election’s timing.  First introduced to voters in October of 2015, last month it was placed on the ballot and the voting will take place March 15 – a.k.a. tomorrow.

“They did a good job of getting it in under the radar,” the liberal activist noted.  “Which is always a sign that something smells.”

Indeed …

UPDATE: Tax hike approved … overwhelmingly.

***

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35 comments

Bible Thumper March 14, 2016 at 5:59 pm

That’s right … they used public tax money to install a putting green at the bureaucrats’ private country club.
___________________________________
What is wrong with that? If the Black school board members want entry to the club, they can always serve as caddies.

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erneba March 14, 2016 at 6:30 pm

There will be a new polling place open in Spartanburg for this election.
The new polling station will be for males only and will be located deep in the confines of “The Loving Touch Massage Parlor and Grille,” next to Spartanburg Republican headquarters.
“The purpose of these new ballot boxes is not to limit voting, but to suck you in for new voting experience.” said one official.

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shifty henry March 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm

“but to suck you in for new voting experience.” I saw what you did there!

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erneba March 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans are offering new and inventive ways to “get the men out to vote.”
And the girls will even “pull” your lever.
It’s nice to have help at times.

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Mary D March 14, 2016 at 7:17 pm

As I understand it they are financing their annual maintenance cost. They are financing computers and other such technology for 15 or 20 years.

People, this is like financing your house on a credit card. Vote NO!

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sparklecity March 15, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Just in at 2300 hrs.:
The referendum passed………….and not a single word on the Spartanburg Tea Party website……….that alone speaks volumes………..

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Dan'l Morgan March 17, 2016 at 9:28 am

They’re not about to report that they got their butts kicked. Note also that Barry Hull’s unsubstantiated rant has now disappeared from the internet. Can’t imagine why. ;-)

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Dan'l Morgan March 17, 2016 at 9:29 am

Whoever told you this lied to you.

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Janet March 14, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Money is cheap so we are being urged by builders, bankers and lawyers to borrow. We don’t really need the money, but it is cheap. And beside, we want special interest to get rich.

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Reese Bobby March 14, 2016 at 9:39 pm

The property was rezoned ten years ago for a significant development but the bad economy killed the project. Another example of how choice real estate in Spartanburg gets removed from the tax rolls by non-profits (Spartanburg Regional, Wofford, big churches, etc) and placing more burden on taxpayers. Back room arrangements typify “progress” in Spartanburg County. Local elected officials at various levels get in bed with investors, developers, architects, engineers and other people of influence. Not a new phenomenon, but the game continues to get more expensive and the taxpayers continue to take it in the shorts. The Dorman High School saga was the start of the Spartanburg County educational arms race in the late 1990’s and the price continues to escalate…

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sparklecity March 14, 2016 at 10:33 pm

Only thing about Dorman “University” is that it was totally paid off within 5 years due to the sale of the “old” Dorman HS property which Walmart and others paid BIG bucks for…..

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Reese Bobby March 15, 2016 at 6:16 am

True, and the entire transaction was done in secret with significant payoffs to certain parties. Public input was ignored and suppressed. A perfectly useful facility was demolished instead of building another facility to accommodate growth. Now, there is a monolith where many students fall through the cracks but educators can take undue credit for accomplishments. Oh, and there is also a football stadium…
My question to any “educrats” would be: How can you quantify the quality of education with brick and mortar?

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sparklecity March 15, 2016 at 11:56 pm

Get real, with all the growth surrounding the “old” Dorman I don’t blame District 6 a bit for selling the property.

Can you imagine what it would be like at the intersection of Blackstock Road and US 29/I-26 today if the “old” Dorman was still there?????
I used to live on that side of town and I don’t recall anyone being opposed to selling the property (except for sentimental reasons and even that was no big deal).
It was a win-win as far as I’m concerned

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ElenaVTucker March 15, 2016 at 1:41 am

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Fleet March 14, 2016 at 11:31 pm

My kids got an excellent education at SHS and both attended a top 20 national university afterwards and did well. SHS is competing with Dorman for students. A few years ago they “spruced” up the high school but putting up a new facade and a fountain, yes a freaking fountain, in the main lobby. They also built a new athletic field that is too short and narrow to play any sport on. When asked about it, the district claimed it was only a practice field. Why then does the field have concession stands and ticket booths?
What else is not mentioned is that the demographics of District 7 are such that it now is an inner city school. For years they have wanted to merge with District 3 which is predominately white. A new school large enough for both high school populations is the one being planned.
What really pisses me off is that for years, teachers who left the district or retired were not replaced. Tommy White, the superintendent before Russel Booker, is still on the payroll at full salary. Want to be there for the kids and to improve their education? Hire more teachers to lower class sizes. I’ve never voted against a bond issue in my life, but I am now.

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Hub City March 15, 2016 at 5:56 am

Among the many, many false statements in this post is one of the first. The New York Times hasn’t owned the Spartanburg Herald Journal since 2012.

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Concerned citizen March 15, 2016 at 6:12 am

What does the ownership of the newspaper have to do with anything? They still published extremely one sided views which any respectable news entity should avoid. What else do you challenge? This referendum is dishonest from the top down.

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Reese Bobby March 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

And who cares about what the staff of the dinosaur known as The Herald-Journal thinks anyway. The entity only serves as a vehicle to deliver last week’s news with grocery and fast food coupons. The website is loaded with so many ads that it is difficult to view. Real journalism is essentially dead, at least that genre is…

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sparklecity March 16, 2016 at 12:03 am

That’s just plain bullshit.
You think you’re going to get what happened in Spartanburg on WORD or that useless WSPA???
Oh I know, FITS can report what happened two months ago or maybe you can start your own blog and use the SHJ as a news source like FITS does with newspapers all the damn time…….

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Reese Bobby March 16, 2016 at 7:41 am

Soooo… You rely on the H-J for timely accurate news?

sparklecity March 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Name another source for in-depth coverage of local events, sports and news since you know so fucking much.
That 30 second burp on WORD talk radio or the crackerjack dime a dozen TV news “journalists” on WSPA, WYFF or WHNS-Fox that don’t know shit from shinola?
How about your average blog on the internet for non-partisan objective 100% accurate news????
Fuck, FITs couldn’t even get that the Spartanburg Herald Journal
has not been owned by the NYT for years!!!!!

Reese Bobby March 17, 2016 at 7:45 am

Does your mother know you use that kind of language?

Reese Bobby March 15, 2016 at 6:19 am

What else?

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Hub City March 15, 2016 at 10:30 am

The mysterious unnamed board members with “direct financial conflicts”? Who would that be, exactly? The real estate agent on the board’s company GAVE UP the listing after learning of that the subject property might be in play to avoid any appearance of a conflict. The board member whose family had a construction business recused herself on the record and her family’s company didn’t get the contract anyway. So many lies. But FITSnews is happy to report them without any verification.

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upstate March 15, 2016 at 9:26 am

Will,

Thank you for giving this monstrosity of a boondoggle coverage. The current education environment in Spartanburg county is one of jealousy, corruption, and ineptitude.

Regarding district 7, it is a district on the downhill slide in terms of attendance demographics. The upper class students largely attend Spartanburg Day School (private) which is right in the center of the district, and very close to the traditionally wealthy area of Converse Heights. They have seen what is left of the upper middle class white population flee to districts 5 (Byrnes), 6 (Dorman), and to a lesser extent district 2 (Boiling Springs) if the family is athletically focused, or to districts 1 (Inman/Campobello) & 4 (Woodruff) if they wish to be in a “small town feel” district. Pretty much no one wants anything to do with district 3, ie: the redneck district.

Enter the corrupt school board. They are holding this election on a special election date. They have spent considerable resources lobbying the low income folks, and the district employees to vote in favor of the plan, and largely tried to keep everyone else blind to the existence of the special election. Goal being to have those that would benefit from the plant to be all for it, and those that would have to pay for it, blind to its existence.

District 5 tried to pull this same thing off a few years ago, and was fortunately shut down.

The big takeaway to me is that we need the state legislatures to pass a law forbidding such votes to take place any time other than a major election date, in November, on years when either the Governor or President is elected. Also, Spartanburg County needs a great deal of consolidation. I do not wish to see a single district setup like Greenville uses, as the local population looses much control over day to day operations, however going from 7 districts to 3-4 is more than feasible, and would save millions/year in administrative overhead.

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Fleet March 15, 2016 at 10:08 am

Don’t count on any of the superintendents losing their jobs.

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sparklecity March 16, 2016 at 12:24 am

Your side lost tonight

Which districts do you want to merge? District 1 with #2?
Since Woodruff (district 4) borders 5 & 6 merge Woodruff?? Yeah, I’d like to see that!!!!!
How about 5 & 6 (Byrnes & Dorman)??? talk about fireworks!!!!!!!!!

I also take offense to you attitude about the good people of District 3 (Broome) – you know, the “redneck” district? Broome started off on the right foot back in 1980 and is a good school but since you are showing your superior side in looking down at them maybe you ought to run as District Superintendent since you know so fucking much…

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upstate March 17, 2016 at 10:03 am

I don’t think that any specific districts need to be merged outright. What needs to occur is to eliminate the current school district lines all together, and redraw them in such a way that makes sense geographically, without even considering “tradition.” The current lines are the educational equivalent of gerrymandering. There are folks (and school buses) driving from John Dodd Road, all the way to Dorman, all in the name of Tradition. At a minimum, districts 1 and 3 need to be absorbed into a combination of 2, 5, and 7, and Woodruff 4 probably would be best served being split between 5 & 6.

Regarding district 3, I am speaking more to the perception from everyone in the county other than those who go to Broome. It is no doubt a great school, but is very much known around the county as the rednecks, simply because that is where folks from cowpens & pacolet are zoned ( even thought hey have to drive right past district 7 schools to get there).

Right off the top, even if you don’t redraw any lines, and just administratively merge a few districts, the district 6 administration could easily absorb Woodruff, District 7 could absorb district 3 (this one IMO makes the most sense out of all the possibilities), and either 2 or 5 could absorb district 1. This would save millions/year in administrative payroll.

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Dan'l Morgan March 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

Some of the upper crust do send their kids to the white flight schools. But, the smartest kids are still at Spartan High.

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Dan'l Morgan March 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

Some of the upper crust do send their kids to the white flight schools. But, the smartest kids are still at Spartan High.

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Dan'l Morgan March 17, 2016 at 11:07 am

As far as the district lobbying the low income folks, you need to check the vote totals. The turnout was biggest in the middle and upper income areas. Those are the same areas where the referendum passed by the largest margins. In fact, 27 out of 33 precincts voted in favor of the referendum. Most of the precincts that voted against it were smaller boxes in lower income areas. The only middle/upper income box that voted against it only did so by 10 votes.

Also, the turnout was 23.8 percent. Not bad for any election in this area. Only 27 percent voted in the Republican presidential primary.

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upstate March 17, 2016 at 11:19 am

to compare it to a primary for a single party (especially republican) is off base, especially in district 7. What is the typical turnout for a presidential/governor’s race? This should be the target, and can easily be achieved by just holding the referendum on the general election ballot.

To get back to the main point at hand, was there any reason this vote needed to take place via special election, rather than waiting until November? Given the overall scope/proposed schedule for the project, moving it up 6 months rather than waiting on the general election, makes little sense, and would not have any real impact on the construction schedule. Not to mention, doing so would have saved the cost of running a special election. At a minimum, figure 3 pole workers per precinct, at $120.00/ea, and this is a completely unnecessary expenditure of $11,880.00 of taxpayer money, and in an effort to get more taxpayer money.

We can agree to disagree as to the merits of the bond itself. I personally feel that some sort of plan was needed, but this particular one was not the correct one, and there was simply no reason that voting needed to take place in March.

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thereallizardman March 15, 2016 at 9:58 am

The vote should have been held in November. Period. There is no reason – other than suppressing votes – to hold the vote in March. It’s $180M. Despite dubious claims that construction costs may skyrocket, the city should have waited six months if it meant more voices would be heard. And though people may claim there’s nothing shady with the March vote, the school board should be above suspicion. Pompeia would likely agree.

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Bill March 15, 2016 at 10:08 am

Get your facts straight Will. N.Y. Times hasn’t owned the Spartanburg paper for a good number of years.

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sparklecity March 16, 2016 at 12:07 am

That’s what happens when you don’t have an editor!!!!

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