West Columbia City Council throws support behind Lexington Two bond referendum

West Columbia City Council unanimously voted Monday to endorse the passing of the Lexington School District Two bond referendum and also moved forward with creating a new city department.

Brad Giles, a member of a task force that assessed the condition of Lexington Two facilities and created a list of needs, asked council to support the referendum that would provide up to $225 million for new schools and major renovations. Lexington Two has schools in West Columbia and Cayce.

“Our district is in need,” Giles said. “When you look at the physical facts, the bond referendum makes sense … curb appeal matters.”

School officials have an option on 35 acres of land in West Columbia for a new campus consolidating B-C Grammar No. 1, Pineview Elementary School and Saluda River Academy for the Arts.

Lexington Two’s millage would increase to 80 mills if the referendum passes. Owners of a $100,000 home would be taxed $320 a year on 80 mills, but senior citizens would be eligible for a local option sales tax credit.

Council members were in agreement that the referendum would benefit students living in the city.

“We are in dire need,” said Mayor Joe Owens. “It’s pay now or pay later.”

Councilwoman Casey Jordan Hallman, a teacher at Pineview Elementary, encouraged those who think the bond referendum issue is not important to personally visit a school campus to see its poor condition.

“Children are missing out on opportunities,” she said.

Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the referendum.

West Columbia also will form a new department after council members gave initial approval Monday. City Administrator Jenny Cunningham said the city is “consolidating some of the essential functions” related to human resources to create an official Human Resources Department.

Duties like benefits, job applications and workers compensation previously were spread out in other departments. Current employees are being reorganized to improve function, and City Clerk and Public Information Officer Mardi Valentino will serve as director of Human Resources. Kellison Brazell is taking over city clerk duties while Assistant City Administrator Brian Carter will add public information officer to his duties.

Cunningham said having all of human resources under one department will streamline things for new and existing employees.

“They’ll have one central person to talk to,” she said.

Council will take a second reading vote to update the ordinance and create the new department.