CARE launches “listening tour” on the 1% sales tax increase proposed by Board of Education

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CARE, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education, is launching a County-wide listening tour to get the “pulse of the public” on the school district’s proposed 1 percent sales tax increase coupled with a property tax reduction. The first phase of the listening tour is scheduled for March 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Helena public library. All members of the public are invited.

According to CARE co-founder Richard Bisi, the grass-roots advocacy group wants to hear from as many residents as possible and provide feedback to the school board. “It is our intention to also invite members of the school board; in particular, the school board member who represents the area at which the forum is scheduled. The second session will take place on Hilton Head Island on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. at the Palmetto Electric Cooperative Community Room while the third session will be scheduled in Bluffton.

“Although the school board has yet to finalize the proposal, it appears all but certain that a 15-year plan or a 10-year plan will be approved by the board. It’s not too early to get out in front of this issue and seek public comment,” Bisi said.

Other than being civil and concise, there will be no stringent requirements for speakers. “The public needs to be heard on this issue and we plan to take their comments back to the school board before the final vote on such a critical issue.

“We believe that the school board does not truly listen to citizens when they address the board. They are more concerned with the huge timers that track speakers to ensure that they do not exceed the 3 minutes allowed. In our sessions, we will not have these restrictions,” Bisi said.

Ever since the nepotism scandal erupted, the school board has gone on the defensive and turned a deaf ear to the public, according to Bisi. “Public trust in the superintendent and the school board has been shattered. Now may not be the time to move forward to ask the taxpayers to approve such expenditure. It would probably result in a referendum on the board and the superintendent and thus have very little chance of passing.”

“But we are keeping an open mind. And that’s precisely why we are sponsoring this listening tour. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. All of us, the school board included, need to listen more.

“Whether or not the school board finalizes the proposal and the referendum is placed on the ballot, the people of Beaufort County deserve to be heard,” Bisi concluded.