Thursday evening a judge in Sumter issued a temporary restraining order against Sumter School District 17’s construction of a new $3.5 million administration building.
The building, housed on $1.38 million parcel of land, was to be built despite the fact that Sumter’s Districts 2 and 17 are scheduled to be consolidated by 2011.
The Sumter Item explains:
The restraining order means work by Penn Contracting at the corner of Bultman Drive and Kilgo Street must stop until the matter can go to trial, which translates to at least a minor victory for the men who filed for the order through Sumter attorney Ken Young: C.O. “Buddy” Gulledge, Joe Summerour, Tommy Dabbs, Chuck Gibbs and Jim Giffin.
The building is part of a controversial increment payment program adopted by the district before state lawmakers outlawed the mechanism. Construction had been criticized by the county’s legislative delegation, the county chamber of commerce, and numerous taxpayer groups.
In an opinion article published Wednesday, Randy Page of South Carolinians for Responsible Government observed:
District bureaucrats insist they must build immediately because the terms of their financing require it. Former school board members and community leaders have asked a judge to force the district to halt the project. On Thursday, district lawyers will appear in court to explain why a restraining order on construction ought not to be issued.
All this speaks to much more than costly bureaucracies and wasteful spending in Sumter. It is sadly indicative of an entitlement mentality among some public servants who treat taxpayer money as their own. It shows their total disregard for the spirit of the laws passed by our elected officials. Most offensive is the way in which these public educators claim an exclusive power to act in the best interest of our state’s children.
The Item’s editorial staff further took the District 17 School Board to task, noting that:
The tin-eared Gang of 7 has rubbed its collective finger in the eyes of the taxpayers by signing a contract to build a white elephant $3.5 million administration building and used the same middle finger to say “Take that!” by unleashing bulldozers on the Bultman Drive site within a commercial district better suited for tax-paying businesses, adding insult to injury.
Page and the Item staff are right: the total lack of accountability is offensive. Beyond halting the construction of this particular white elephant, voters need to consider structural changes to the way we provide education in our state. Only in a School Choice scenario, where the money follows the child wherever they go, can public officials and bureaucrats be fully held to account for taxpayer dollars.