County ranks 3rd in population growth

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By Chris Sardelli

Lancaster County is the third-fastest growing county in the state, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The results are part of a study conducted by the Census Bureau on population changes of South Carolina counties between July 2007 and July 2008.

Lancaster County grew by 2,375 residents within that year, a growth of 3.2 percent. The county’s new estimated population is 75,913, up from 73,538 in 2007.

York County was first in population growth, with a 4.3 percent increase, which equals 8,884 new residents, followed by Berkeley County with 3.5 percent growth, an increase of 5,772 people.

Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said the growth here is impressive, especially when compared to past growth in the county.

Willis said the county’s population grew from about 53,000 in 1980 to 61,351 in 2000, an addition of more than 8,000 residents.

In comparison, the growth in the county over the last eight years was 14,562 residents.

“In the last eight years, we’ve doubled what it took us 20 years to do,” Willis said. “It’s good news. Of course along with the good news comes challenges.”

Willis said the majority of the county’s growth has occurred in Indian Land. The southern end of the county has seen a slight loss in population, Willis said.

With no plans for a tax increase for county residents this year, but with the state Legislature considering a reduction in county tax revenue, Willis said there will be a strain on county services in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

School concerns

Dr. Gene Moore, Lancaster County School District superintendent, said the growth has an obvious impact on schools in the county.

There are more than 11,500 students in the district, an increase of almost 300 students since last year.

Moore said the majority of growth in the school district is in Indian Land, with more than 1,100 students in the elementary school alone. There has been slight growth in Buford as well, Moore said.

“The board and myself are concerned about this issue and how we’ll handle it,” Moore said. “The growth has been putting some stress on us, especially in Indian Land.”

A facility study of the district’s schools may provide the district with insight on how well schools are serving the district’s students.

 A similar study was conducted in 2002, and Moore is revisiting the same company that conducted the study.

The purpose of the study would be to visit schools and see whether they can accommodate the number of students that are enrolled in them.

“This is going to highlight if there is a need for an additional facility or two,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see, though.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416