Horry County School Board looks at building plan to solve overcrowding

The Horry County School Board is a step closer to deciding what to do about overcrowded schools, after seeing a new building plan designed to handle an explosion in growth.

Originally, the board considered changing attendance lines to deal with overcapacity in schools like Ocean Bay Middle School in Carolina Forest, which has an enrollment of about 135 percent of building capacity.

The board scrapped that plan after seeing new numbers that suggest much bigger growth than the board expected.

The revised numbers project enrollment of 5,600 new students in the county over ten years.

Wednesday, the board was presented with a revised five-year plan to construct new schools or expand on existing buildings.

Though no votes were taken on the list of 11 projects, there was general agreement on what needs to be done.

"There is a consensus on all but three (projects) and the three we don't have a problem with, we just want more information and see how they're utilizing the current building," said board chairman Joe DeFeo.

DeFeo says the last thing the board should do is build new schools and then end up with empty classrooms in a few years.

The board also heard five funding options for the building plan, one of which would be a pay-as-you-go program, but leave an $87 million shortfall.

One board member says he can't see how it all can be done without new taxes.

"I'm in favor of a small tax increase to help us regarding the construction and renovation of our buildings," said board member Harvey Eisner.

DeFeo says if it means delaying a decision for a few more months on which projects to do and how to pay for them, so be it.

"We're talking about $400 million plus here probably, we're talking about a school that we hope to last 50 or 60 years. We can't say, 'Oops, sorry, we made a mistake.' It has to be right."

DeFeo says the district can borrow around $150 million on its own. Any more than that will require voter approval.