A recent column detailed unconscionable costs to house the University of South Carolina Beaufort hospitality management program in a town-built, but state-owned, $26 million facility near Sea Pines Circle on Hilton Head Island. Retired chancellor Jane Upshaw’s stated use by 100 juniors and 100 seniors yielded approximate costs of $130,000 per student, more than 400 percent higher than the school board recently paid for comparable high school classrooms.
Unfortunately, this estimate was far too low due to dependence on exaggerated numbers and claims that this was a very popular and growing major. True data, obtainable only via FOIA, reveal much lower enrollment: Seniors, 60; juniors, 42; sophomores, 26; freshmen, 26. That’s 50- to 75 percent lower than claimed and documents a program in serious enrollment decline. The cost soars to about $250,000 to $500,000 per student.
The USCB plan fails miserably on critical criteria of numbers, quality, cost, traffic generation and need.
Money availability doesn’t justify wanton waste. Ideal alternate uses of the tax increment financing money include desperately needed water and sewer infrastructure, road paving, financially struggling schools, traffic mitigation, etc.
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Must taxpayers accept and pay for this fiasco? Failing to perform required due diligence, unquestioning town officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (not a contract) with USCB, which permits cancellation without liability for valid cause. They say it’s a “done deal,” but it’s not.
Material misrepresentation is a cancellable cause.
Bombard your councilmen with objections. Protest at Town Council meetings. Voice your displeasure. Maybe, they’ll finally represent your interests.
Hilton Head Island