Thursday, June 20, 2013
One Berkeley County School Board member is demanding more information about a resolution for an additional $53 million in bonds related to the $198 million school improvement referendum.
The resolution for the additional money, slated for equipment such as HVAC and technology, was passed by the board at its May 28 meeting.
At the June 11 meeting board member Phillip Obie (District 3) said it was unclear that the $53 million general obligation bond passed at the May 28 meeting was being added on to the $198 million referendum.
“I would like to make a motion that we suspend the issuing of that $53 million special obligation bond for equipment acquisitions until the board can be briefed with more information about it and how it relates to the bond referendum,” Obie said at the meeting.
The motion received a second but discussion was cut off.
“It is my understanding that unless someone on the board takes issue with me that it only requires a motion and a second for the motion to be heard again,” board chair Kent Murray said. “Does anyone take issue with my understanding?”
“It is not on the agenda,” board member Doug Cooper said.
Murray asked Obie to again read his motion, then responded, “I can’t do that. I would have to call that out of order.”
Murray then pounded the gavel.
“I was under the opinion,” Obie said, continuing, “that we started planning the bond referendum for $250 million and as the board moved forward with the plan we sharpened our pencil very much and got to $198 million.
“Further, when we passed the resolution in August of 2012 to put this on the ballot we told the people that it was for $198 million and in there listed that it was for construction and equipment and technology of new schools and for the renovations and small renovations of other schools and included technology and other equipment, renovations improvements and additions.
“I was under the assumption, like most people in the county, that the $198 million included all the funds that were needed for the project. We went out as a community member and as a campaign committee we went out and campaigned for the $198 million bond.
“The folks in the community passed it. Now we’ve come back with a $53 million general obligation bond for equipment acquisition.
“I disagree with the $53 million and was ill-informed at the last meeting on what this was for,” Obie said.
He continued by saying that he “would like to see it on the agenda for the next meeting where we can get more information on it and understand why we need this $53 million and what the actual real budgets are for these schools if they’re different from the $198 million that we passed.”
Obie told The Gazette when he voted for the $53 million resolution he thought it was the first issuance of the $198 million bond because work has started on two of the projects, land is being looked at for new schools and renovations have begun at Goose Creek schools.
Obie said he is asking to have an item for information on the June 25 meeting agenda to find out what the true budgets for all the schools were. He said first he wants to find out where the $53 million came from and what the real dollar amount is.
He said he was not surprised his motion was stopped at the June 11 meeting.
“It surprised me you can’t make a motion if it’s not on the agenda but didn't surprise me they tried to stop it from going to vote,” Obie said. “It was my understanding if there’s a motion and a second it can be discussed, but I didn’t have the rules in front of me.
“I don't like the $53 million. We went out and told the people it was $198 million. I talked to the people I represent in my district and talked about how that was going to help out the schools in my district with renovations and small projects, including equipment, technology, furnishings and so on.
“Everything I talked about, saw and read, it was $198 million. Now they want to add another $53 million and I’m disappointed because they weren’t forthcoming.”
Obie said the public did not vote for the additional money, which will be more debt the county does not need. “It’s like adding salt to a wound.”
Obie said the $53 million was discussed at a June 2012 workshop but as it never came up again later he thought it was dropped from the original referendum.
“The other joking question is, what’d you have for dinner last Thursday? We did discuss it but that’s as far as it went. If it had been relevant I would’ve thought it would’ve been discussed more during the campaign.”
Obie said the next thing he would like to see is more information. “The people didn’t vote on it so I don’t think it’s right.”