Now’s not the time to approve school bond

The dysfunctional Beaufort County Board of Education will ask voters to entrust it with $76 million in a bond referendum this Saturday.

The answer should be “no.”

We cannot trust Superintendent Jeff Moss and the board majority with this new money. And, regardless of what you hear, trust still matters.

Three subpoenas have been issued to the school district by the FBI regarding the most recent construction jobs. The district has not been forthcoming or transparent on what that is about.

Suffice it to say, it is not good. Maybe it all is much ado about nothing. But to have the FBI poking around in our school district is beyond disturbing. And we do not know what may be involved because the public school district has chosen not to release the subpoenas, which are public documents.

We do know that the investigation involves construction of two schools in Bluffton, which we know opened at grossly higher costs than originally presented to the board by the school district administration.

So when people say the school district’s dollar figures cannot be trusted, there’s good reason for that.

To press forward now with more construction dollars, with a mysterious FBI investigation of our school construction going on, would be unwise.

The school board itself is not enthused about this referendum at this time. It voted 6-to-5 to hold the referendum.

And we are not comfortable with their insistence on the need for the new construction.

The $15 million that is in the referendum for Career and Technical Education buildings at three high schools came out of the blue with no public discussion. They were not even included in Moss’s prior, $118 million referendum proposed to board.

For that matter, the entire $76 million figure came out of the blue. It popped up in a motion put out for a vote at the last second, with board members unaware of where that number originated and why.

Following an in-depth examination by our news staff, it does appear that two Bluffton schools could definitely use more space: Pritchardville Elementary and River Ridge Academy. Bluffton is going to need new school construction.

But at the same time, there is room at other schools in Bluffton.

It was never fair to float the idea that Bluffton students may have to be bused to northern Beaufort County. That’s not going to happen. Ever. Even though many northern Beaufort County schools have room, that’s too far to send children or to expect their parents to be involved in the schools. That option should never have been said to be on the table.

Bluffton is going to need new school buildings and we desperately need a trustworthy school board and superintendent to get it figured out and somehow made palatable to voters countywide.

It is our hope that a new board with a new focus, new tenor and new common-sense civil behavior will be elected as voters fill seven seats around the county this November. That would be the first step to restoring trust. Right now, we don’t believe them and we don’t trust them.