The economic impact that strong public schools have on a community can’t be overstated. As REALTORS® everywhere know, they attract not only prospective homebuyers, but also businesses looking to locate where there will be a well-educated future workforce. In Beaufort County, S.C., a vibrant community of great natural beauty, major construction, renovations, and updates were needed throughout the school district, which had not had a successful bond referendum – its only source of such funding – in 11 years. When a promising referendum made it to the ballot this year, the Hilton Head Area REALTORS® and the Beaufort Jasper County REALTORS® stepped up to make sure it would pass in November.
Jocelyn Staigar, Government Affairs Director of the 1754-member Hilton Head Area Association, says, “Good schools are a foundation of healthy communities, and a key part of our Quality of Life agenda.” The need for funding in Beaufort County was urgent, she explains: enrollment has increased by more than 3,000 students since the last successful referendum, and the school district is braced for significant growth in the near future. School buildings in the county had deteriorated in recent years as referendums had failed to pass due to a lack of public trust in the school board leadership, which had been plagued by an ethics issue and general dysfunction. With a new school superintendent in place and meaningful turnover on the school board, a new referendum informed by an independent review of the school district’s needs presented a fresh opportunity to try again.
The REALTORS® embarked on an energetic get-out-the-vote campaign to pass the two-part referendum that would total $344 million for projects to improve and enlarge school facilities and programs.
The Hilton Head Area REALTORS® and the Beaufort Jasper County REALTORS® committed 10% of the funding for the campaign and had already received strong support from the state association before applying for an Issues Mobilization Grant. “No GAD should be afraid to call NAR and make use of the programs and services they offer,” says Staigar. “They’ll hold your hand through the whole process, and help you submit a strong application, so if you’ve never done this before, there’s nothing to worry about. The staff at NAR really is fantastic,” she continues, “Not only is it a pleasure to work with them, but they want you to succeed!” It still takes work, she notes, but having to complete a thorough application means having a detailed plan in place, which is important for the success of any project.
For Beaufort County, the campaign of online ads, a series of live get-out-the-vote calls, and direct mail to voting households carried through to Election Day, when the referendum passed with more than 70% of the vote. “We can’t take all the credit for this success,” admits Staigar, noting that since the last referendum on school funding failed, a significant turnover in school board leadership has given voters a renewed sense of trust and hope. “But we certainly worked hard for this outcome, and it’s had a palpable healing effect on the community. And with each of our issues campaigns, like this one, members of the public are recognizing REALTORS® as being beneficial for the community. High profile efforts like this, demonstrating that REALTORS® do so much more than sell property, are worth every penny!”
To learn more about how REALTORS® in Beaufort County are working to improve the quality of life in their communities with help from the REALTOR® Party, contact Government Affairs Director Jocelyn Staigar at 843-842-2421.