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Midlands SC District Purchases Controversial School Site

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COMMUNITY ENRAGED …

Flanked by “extra security,” board members of one of South Carolina’s most poorly managed government-run school districts voted to spend nearly $1 million on a controversial site for a proposed elementary school.

Led by chairman Robert Gantt, the Lexington-Richland School District 5 board voted 6-1 to purchase the 23.4 acre tract of land – located off of Amicks Ferry road near Chapin, S.C. – at well above fair market value.

The vote came despite overwhelming, vocal opposition from the local community – who objected to the move as benefiting developers eager to push into this pristine, rural lakefront community.

We concur with their assessment …

Jan Hammond was the only board member who voted against the hugely unpopular proposal – which appears to have flagrantly violated the district’s own site acquisition policies and which has raised numerous red flags among concerned citizens.

This website wrote extensively earlier this week against the purchase of this land – encouraging district leaders to “put the brakes on this project and start shooting straight with citizens.”

They did neither … choosing instead to continue their pattern of questionable spending decisions.

As we noted in our prior coverage, this school district appears to have an addiction to building new and unnecessary facilities at staggering costs to taxpayers – even though its student population isn’t growing.

In 2007, Lexington-Richland 5 was home to 16,567 students and operated on a $120.8 million annual budget.  This year, the district has roughly the same number of students (16,822) – yet its annual budget has soared to $181.9 million a year.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 50.5 percent increase in spending against only a 1.5 percent increase in its student population.  In addition to its skyrocketing recurring budgets, the district has also seen its reserve funds soar – from $22.6 million in 2007 to $37.1 million last year (a 64 percent increase).

Unfortunately these massive investments have failed to produce results within the district’s gleaming new classrooms, as SAT scores are stagnant and ACT scores have declined over the past decade.

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Banner via Lexington County, S.C.

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