Over-budget or over-capacity: HCS board members set to make construction decision

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - After falling short on their school construction budget,  Horry County School Board members are now down to three options.

The steering committee will walk the board through the options Monday night during a specially-called meeting at district headquarters.

Additions to elementary schools will happen no matter what, but building four new middle schools is where the budget fell short.

The first option would keep the district within its $300+ million budget, but that option means they would have to cut back on square footage, which ultimately means in the future, schools could soon be right back at capacity.

"The first option would not give us side rooms, the proper gymnasium, the proper other rooms and so personally, I would not vote for that," said Board Chair Joe Defeo.

The second option is over budget by around $22 million, but it gives the district 145,000 more square feet at the middle schools to work with.
The third option would mean even more space. It would be 165,000 more square feet at the middle schools, but this choice is over budget by around $40 million, according to Defeo.

Defeo also added that falling short came as no surprise.

"What we did was say this is our budget, see what you can do with it, rather than start high we wanted to start low," he said.

Last school year, the district grew by around 800 students, and it appears as though that trend will continue. That's why board members aren't just making decisions for right now. 
Defeo says fortunately, the district is in a position to make a decision from a healthy financial platform.

"We have not approved how we are paying for it yet, other than to say we will not raise taxes. We are in a good enough shape where we could borrow the money ourselves and not have a referendum or a bond issue," Defeo added.

Once a decision is made, the board will inform the architects on which way to go. After that the construction bidding process will begin but the actual building won't start until 2015.

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