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Port Royal Council divided over school bond

Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

PORT ROYAL–Town Council members didn’t show unanimous support for the upcoming $26 million school bond referendum during a Sept. 17 monthly meeting.

Town Council member Jim Heimbach, who is also a member of the school capitol improvements committee, fully supports the school bond referendum, which will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, he said. Heimbach is concerned about the structural, electrical, and over-all integrity of the Caroline County School system, he noted. Heimbach presented the council with a draft for a resolution to support the referendum.

Council member Bill Henderson is adamantly opposed to any increase in tax dollars that that will be necessary if the referendum is approved. “No one will tell me what the burden will be,” he said. “I don’t want to pass on this burden.”

Nancy Long, the mayor of Port Royal, said that she had no problem “paying extra money to have the schools fixed,” and that she absolutely “planned on supporting” the referendum, but that she needed time to think about signing the resolution.

Council member Della Mills is also in favor of putting money into fixing the county’s schools, stating that she didn’t have a problem with signing the resolution that evening. “I have no problem investing in my grandchildren’s future” she said.

“Yes, $26.3 million is a lot of money,” said council member Oliver Fortune, who is also in favor of the school bond referendum. “But I look at the kids now, and it’s pitiful.” Fortune expressed concerns over not only how few Caroline students reach graduation, but also go on to college afterward. “I think I did better in high school 70 years ago.”

Mills stated that she agreed with Fortune, and that she is also aware that students of Caroline, particularly those who are involved in sports and travel for games, are often made fun of by other schools for their lack of equipment and facilities. She also noted that many students from Caroline who do enter into college are forced to “play catch up” in order to be on the same academic level as other students. She said adequate programs, such as sports, will help keep children out of trouble.

Henderson disagreed, stating that no amount of money will “keep them [kids] out of trouble.”

Council member Monica Chennault indicated she was unsure of where she stood on the topic. “I want to vote for improvements to the school,” she said.  “But it is a bad time economically.”

Henderson reiterated his concerns that there are many members of the community who can barely afford to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table as it stands right now, and that those members of the community “do not have the money to spend on this.”

“We need to have good facilities,” said council member Bill Wick. “We also need to have good teachers.” Wick was also enthusiastic about supporting the resolution, stating, “I think we need to support this.”

No formal decision was made during the meeting. Mills, Fortune, Heimbach and Wick all signed the resolution yesterday evening. Long and Chennault maintained that they needed time to think about it, and would like more information before making a decision.

Henderson kept his position against the referendum, and stated plainly that he would not sign the resolution, but that he would welcome any new information on the subject.