Obie: 'I do not think we were transparent'
Superintendent takes issue with Obie's comments
Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson said he disputes any claim that members of the Berkeley County School Board were not informed about a special bond that would be added to the school improvement referendum bond.
This occurred at the regularly scheduled June 24 meeting in Moncks Corner.
Board member Phillip Obie recently voiced concerns that the BCSD administration was not forthcoming with information regarding a $53 million equipment acquisition bond.
The bond is in addition to the $198 million school improvement referendum passed by voters in November. On May 28 the board passed the additional $53 million, although Obie later said he thought this was the first installment of the $198 million and not in addition to.
Obie voiced concerns that during the referendum campaign the voters were not told about the additional $53 million and he himself did not know its true nature at the May 28 meeting.
On June 24 Thompson told Obie that the equipment acquisition bond was mentioned at the July 24, 2012 meeting and presentations were made at the Jan. 10, 2012 and April 24, 2012 meetings where the estimated costs for the district's building needs was $250 million.
While minutes to the above-mentioned meetings do not mention the equipment acquisition bond, at the June 24 meeting Thompson said he gave each board member a DVD of the July 24, 2012 meeting in which he says the additional bond was discussed. The videos can be viewed on the district's website.
In minute 33 of the video Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini's presentation begins and at minute 51 Obie asks about the equipment acquisition bond.
In minute 36 of the video, Franchini says: “Equipment and technology, as far as this is concerned, does not include furnishings, shelving, kitchen equipment, HVAC units, library shelving, Smartboards, I could go on and on, which we'll purchase with equipment acquisition financing, as a part of existing debt capacity.”
The amount of $53 million nor any estimated figure for the equipment acquisition bond, however, was not mentioned at the July 24, 2012 meeting.
There is no mention of a $53 million equipment acquisition bond in the minutes for the 2012 meetings of Aug. 14, Aug. 28, Sept. 11, Sept. 25, Oct. 9 or Oct. 23, which all took place leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
“So we're going for $198 million for a bond, and we're going to fund the other $52 million through our 8 percent money,” Obie said in the video of the July 24, 2012 meeting. “What impact will that $52 million have on our 8 percent money and the tax increase folks will see?”
“It won't change the tax increase folks would see,” Franchini said in his response.
“Only the equipment that we purchase for the project, only the annual installment will count against our debt capacity,” Thompson said in the July 24, 2012 video. “Over the length of the loan we would now be looking at a 20-year debt for this project as opposed to a 30-year debt. The taxpayers would be interested to know the way we changed the financing on this project, they would only be paying a shorter term.”
At the most recent meeting Thompson cited Franchini's statements in the July 24, 2012 meeting, echoing his statements that equipment such as Smartboards would be purchased with the district's equipment acquisition financing as part of existing debt capacity.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the financing options, which the board passed without discussion in May, it is not accurate as a board member to state publicly that you did not realize equipment acquisition financing was to be used to fund a portion of the building needs in this district,” Thompson said.
“I will go back and review that video,” Obie said. “I'm sure Mr. Franchini said that, although as far as being very transparent with the public, I do not think we were transparent with the public when we were out there at the different venues advertising $198 million.”