School News

CCSD responds to the need and utilization of continuing the 1% sales tax


The decision to file legislation for the continuation of this tax was driven by an urgent need to secure funding for ongoing and future capital improvements across our schools. These improvements are not just cosmetic but are essential for providing safe, modern, and conducive learning environments for our students. The legislation’s intent was to ensure that these critical projects could continue without interruption, based on a comprehensive understanding of our district’s needs and the lengthy timelines required for planning and execution.

We recognize the importance of engaging with our constituents on matters that affect them directly; however, the urgency and the structured timelines sometimes necessitate immediate action to avoid delays that could impact our students’ well-being and educational experience.

Regarding the extension of the tax to other counties and the management decisions made by the school board, it’s important to clarify that each county’s situation is unique, with specific educational and infrastructural needs. Implementing this tax through legislation rather than a referendum was a decision made in the context of ensuring continuous funding for necessary capital improvements without the risk of interruption. The investments made in our school facilities directly enhance the learning experience, ensuring that our students have access to safe, modern, and well-equipped educational environments. This approach also allows us to address urgent needs in a timely manner, rather than being constrained by the timing and outcome of referendum processes.

It’s crucial to understand that this funding mechanism is designed to distribute the financial burden more broadly, leveraging the economic activity within our county to benefit our schools.

This, in turn, helps to mitigate the need for direct increases in local property taxes, which would primarily affect our residents. With more companies coming to Clarendon County and being off of I-95, thousands of non-residents contribute daily to the schools in Clarendon County through the 1% sales tax.

The commitment to transparency and accountability is paramount. It’s our responsibility to ensure that every dollar is spent judiciously to create the best possible educational environment for our students. We are accountable for the funds and utilize those funds to ensure that the capital improvement projects are completed more efficiently and in a shorter period of time, thus lessening the costs. The budget process is transparent. Budget information is posted on the website and updated throughout the year. Further, external auditors perform annual audits of the District’s financial statements to determine compliance with legal requirements, which have been successful and have been found to show that the District appropriately handles funds. Before speaking on budgets and spending, one must understand how district accounting and budgets are processed and handled before making a sound judgment or assumption.

Similar to others, like Lexington and Charleston counties, our district relies on this tax not for salaries but for crucial capital improvements that directly impact our students’ learning and safety. It is a pivotal tool in our efforts to provide high-quality education and facilities. Just as the penny tax was implemented 20 years ago, the underlying goal was and remains to support and enhance every student’s educational journey in Clarendon County. The school board’s decisions, including contract terms for administration positions, are made with long-term stability and accountability in mind. This ensures that we can continue to attract and retain top talent in our leadership positions, which is vital for our district’s success. Administrative salaries do not have any bearing or influence on the penny tax. As mentioned previously, the funds are utilized for timely capital improvements to ensure the maintenance of buildings and new projects.

It is also essential to state that a list of items is submitted to the County Council each year for approval before any project begins. Please see a list of the improvements vital to the school district’s maintenance this school year, which the County Council approved.

2023-2024 Lost Capital Improvements:

1. Athletic Field Care

a. Turf Management

b. Turf Maintenance

2. Sport Field top dressing to get fields to safe playing conditions.

3. East Clarendon Middle High School Football Field Temporary Fencing 4. Purchase of Custodial Equipment

a. MECC Propane Floor Burnisher

5. Purchase of Maintenance Equipment

a. Plumbing Scope Camera

b. Dual Axle Trailer

i. Upgrades to safely move district scissor lifts and chair racks.

6. District Phone Systems

a. Integrate District phones across the district

b. Upgrade outdated phone systems throughout the district to include adding phones to all classrooms

7. Manning High School Paging System

8. Replace end of life fire alarms panels at Manning Elementary School, Dr. Rose Wilder Elementary, and Manning Jr High

a. Manning Jr High fire panel from a zone based system to an intelligent detector system that allows pinpoint location of an alarm.

9. Dr. Rose Wilder Elementary Playground

a. Remove the broken/unsafe equipment

b. Add age appropriate equipment for all ages since the addition of early childhood.

c. Replace mulch with new playground certified mulch to safety standards throughout the playground.

10. Manning Elementary and East Clarendon Bathroom Renovations

11. Purchase up to date radios for school administrations at East Clarendon Middle High, FE Dubose, and Scott’s Branch Middle High

12. Move unused greenhouse at East Clarendon to Manning High School

13. Replaced two classroom Bard HVAC units at Manning Elementary School

14. Manning High School Bat Eviction and Exclusion

15. East Clarendon basketball court redesign and refinishing

16. Manning High School, Manning Jr. High, and Scott’s Branch Middle High basketball court refinishing

17. Purchase land for the new Walker Gamble Elementary School

18. Dr. Rose Wilder Elementary School Special Education Restroom Addition

19. Updating District Server to one server for the district

20. Security Camera Updates/upgrades

21. IT Equipment and Software

22. Copier/Printer Maintenance

23. Activity Buses

24. Bus Radios

Soon To Begin Projects:

1. Manning Jr High Student Drop off/Pick up Awning

2. East Clarendon Middle High Kitchen HVAC unit replacement

3. Dr. Rose Wilder Elementary School Classroom Door Hardware Safety Upgrade

4. Scott’s Branch Lock Room Painting/Flooring

Certainly, adding to the context of the 1% school debt tax and its significance for the Clarendon County School District, it’s crucial to highlight our district’s academic achievements. These accomplishments underscore the direct correlation between our facilities’ quality and our educational outcomes’ excellence. Many of our buildings are aging and need continuous care to ensure the safety of our students. Without the tax, it would necessitate closing several of our schools and merging them into one county school. For instance, without the tax, the ability to maintain three county high schools would be impossible, forcing the district to merge Manning High, East Clarendon High, and Scott’s Branch High into one Clarendon County high school, causing each area to lose the identity they adore and force students to travel further to school.

How fair is that?

Our district boasts remarkable academic success, with only one school rated below average. This achievement is not by happenstance but the result of dedicated efforts from our teachers, students, administrators, and the community, supported by the infrastructure and resources financed through measures like the 1% school debt tax. Even more noteworthy is the transformation of one of our schools from a below-average rating to achieving consecutive years of excellence. This transformation is a testament to what can be achieved with the right support and resources, emphasizing the importance of continued investment in our educational infrastructure.

These academic achievements are central to our argument for the non-referendum approach to implementing the tax. The direct benefits of this tax are evident in the enhanced learning environments and the advanced resources available to our students and teachers. These improvements directly contribute to our students' ability to learn effectively and achieve high academic standards.

Our success in elevating academic performance across the district demonstrates our commitment to excellence in education and the judicious use of funds allocated through the 1% school debt tax. It’s a clear indication that our investments in our school facilities are not just about physical improvements but are fundamentally about elevating the quality of education and opportunities available to every student in Clarendon County.

Imagine a school district without working HVAC systems where students would be too hot or cold to focus on learning. Imagine a school with one bathroom stall with operable door locks and a toilet for hundreds of students to utilize and how that would impact the school’s operations.

Imagine schools with inoperable camera systems and how that would affect the safety of students and staff. Imagine a school district without the proper bandwidth and network capabilities and how that would affect 21st-century learning for our students. Imagine a school district without up-to-date facilities for the community to utilize and host community events for community engagement, which is what the new gym will be utilized for at Manning Primary School/the new district office. Imagine athletics and physical education students not having the ability to go on the fields due to unleveled grounds and unmanaged grass posing injury and risks to our students.

Without this penny tax, imagine a school district that would be behind the times and unmaintained. It would be devastating to the academic success and maintenance of the Clarendon County School District and the communities in which it resides.

The academic successes and the need to maintain district buildings justify the importance of maintaining and extending the tax to ensure that capital improvements continue, supporting the physical infrastructure of our schools and the ongoing academic excellence that defines our district. It serves as a compelling argument for the necessity of this funding mechanism, emphasizing its role in fostering an environment where students can thrive academically.