Last updated: March 10. 2014 10:58AM - 515 Views
By Lucas Vance lvance@civitasmedia.com

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WINNSBORO — The Fairfield County Presentation Committee took no action in recommending Midlands STEM Institute be put on the agenda to present to the full council.

Dwayne Perry, vice chairman of Fairfield County Council and member of the committee, made the motion to review the information and reconvene at a later date.

Midlands STEM Institute recently approached county council for bond financing in the amount of $3.4 million.

MSI’s legal counsel, Stephen Cox admitted that this specific bond is a “peculiar” one.

“This is certainly something new to us and is not done widespread,” Council Chairman David Ferguson added.

Perry asked Cox if it is customary to approach council with this type of bond.

“It is customary to come before the local governing law,” Cox said. “The governing body of your jurisdiction has to have a public hearing to approve the bond issue.”

Law requires the approval be given by the geographic unit and since the school campus lies outside town limits in Greenbrier, that jurisdiction falls in the county’s lap.

Although it is not customary, Cox acknowledged that MSI could receive bond approval from the state level either from the Attorney General or Gov. Nikki Haley.

Cox noted that there was only one instance he is aware of where a bond was issued by the state and not the county.

Cox said he does not see the bond approval as an endorsement, but rather as a business license or a technical legal requirement that is needed to move forward.

“By approving this bond the county is not necessarily giving endorsement, but rather satisfying a legal requirement,” he explained.

After not receiving approval from the committee, Cox stated his office will continue to talk to state reps as an alternative while waiting for approval from county council.

Fairfield County Council attorney Jack James confirmed that approving the bond would not bind the county on their borrowing or go against their credit.

“That is what I understand,” James reiterated. “After looking at the IRS code, my review is that the county will not be liable for these bonds if they default. Even though it would be resolution passed by county council, it would not be a debt.”

Prior to the re-introduction of the committee system, the preview of a presentation would have been only approved by the council chairman. However since then, the process has changed to include a committee that consists of the chair, vice-chair and a rotating council member.

The committee would then need to make a recommendation to place the presentation on the agenda, which would still need a majority vote by council to be approved.

South Carolina has 23 charter schools statewide and 13 schools have been approved for the Fall of 2014. MSI plans to open Aug. 18.

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