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School board approves bonds to pay off IPP, other debt

Posted: August 9, 2012 6:56 p.m.
Updated: August 10, 2012 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School Board of Trustees unanimously approved the issuance of a general obligation bond for payments under the Installment Purchase Plan (IPP) and other debt payments at their Tuesday night board meeting.

The annual bond resolution will not exceed $13 million this year and will be sold “in one or more series” during the current fiscal year that will include both tax-exempt and taxable designations. The nature of the proceeds will determine whether they are taxed or not, according to Kershaw County School District
Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson. Wilson said the bond will pay installments issued by the Kershaw County Public School Foundation.

Beginning in 2006, the foundation -- a non-profit corporation whose board of directors is made up of Kershaw County citizens appointed by the school board -- issued a $120 million bond to KCSD for a two-part Facilities Equalization Program. The district must sell annual bonds to pay installments on the original bonds issued by the foundation. The board issues annual bonds under a constitutional debt limit of 8 percent of the assessed value of all taxable property. The amount issued varies from year to year depending on debt, principal and interest increases and decreases, however. Last year the board asked for a resolution that did not exceed $10 million. The board may issue general obligation bonds to lessen the costs of “capital improvements” for any cost below the constitutional debt limit.

“The financing arrangement was built around a stable set millage rate for debt service that doesn’t fluctuate from year to year. The $13 million resolution will not affect millage rates for debt service due to the plan that was put in place several years ago,” Wilson said.

There will be no tax increases to pass the resolution, which is “good news,” KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said. The bond will be available for purchase this month.

The board also discussed refinancing a bond with a 5 percent interest rate from 2005 for a little more than 1 percent, a 4 percentage-point reduction. The bond will still be paid off in 2018, but with a gross savings of more than $1 million.

“It’s one of those things that’s a no-brainer. We just simply have to do it,” Wilson said. “It’s the good news part of the bad economy.”

The board will vote on whether to approve the proposal during its next meeting, Aug. 21.

In addition, Wilson presented the board with trustee salary increase options, which can only take effect after a general election where two or more members of the board are newly elected. Trustees Carol Thompson of Camden and Jim Smith of Cassatt previously expressed concern over pay increases for school board trustees because neither will run for re-election this year. Chair Mara Jones discussed with Wilson and the board her concern over approving pay increases now due its affect on the 2012-2013 budget because pay increases would come from the district’s general funds. Jones suggested the board wait to approve an increase during the next fiscal year. Wilson said that the board could wait until that time.

Board members are currently paid $75 per meeting, which can include two evening school board meetings and a finance/facility meeting. Neighboring Lancaster County trustees receive $400 and the chair receives $500 per month. Newberry County trustees receive $5,400 a year, $6,750 per year for the chair. Wilson said Newberry County School District is close in size to Kershaw County’s, while trustees in 31 South Carolina school districts receive no compensation. Suggestions on salary increases will be presented at an Aug. 28 Facilities/Finance Committee meeting.

In other news:

• The board recognized and honored the life of the late Joey Dorton, who served as a KCSD trustee from 2004 until his death Aug. 1. Dorton served as chair of the board from 2008-2011 amidst severe budget cuts. Dorton was a product of the school district, having graduated from Lugoff-Elgin High School.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve after Joey,” Jones said. “Joey Dorton left this world better than he found it.”

A special election will be held to fill Dorton’s seat (see accompanying story).

• The Kershaw County Revolutionists robotics team presented its robot to the board and some principals in attendance. An information meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Lugoff-Elgin High School Annex. The team is open to students from each of the district’s high schools. The team needs interested students to help design, build and program robots; maintain the team website; and help promote the group.

• The board recognized 15 principals awarded the Palmetto Gold and Silver School awards. The award has two parts: general school achievement and efforts to close the achievement gaps.

Gold winners include: Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC), Doby’s Mill and Lugoff elementary schools and Lugoff-Elgin Middle School. Silver winners: Bethune, Blaney, Camden, Mt. Pisgah, Jackson, Pine Tree Hill and Wateree elementary schools; and Camden, North Central and Stover middle schools. North Central High School received a silver award for closing the achievement gap

• The board unanimously approved Genova Family Karate’s use of school facilities at Blaney and Doby’s Mill elementary schools to host its martial arts program.  “It’s a win-win” Morgan said.

• KCSD’s Executive Director of Operations Billy Smith told the board that the ATEC’s HVAC replacement is complete.

• The board unanimously voted to approve Policy GBEBA/Employee Dress Code and the Policy IJNDB/Technology Resources. Policy GBEBA is the district’s first formal employee dress code. The technology resources policy was updated to include new Apple iPads all rising ninth-graders will receive and any other device the district may use in the future.

• KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instruction Tim Hopkins presented information about the Elementary Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) waiver to the board, which will phase in to South Carolina Schools during the next three years. Under the waiver, schools and districts can earn credit for “making progress” on annual measureable objectives. During the upcoming school year, 22 schools will test changes South Carolina requested in a NCLB waiver submitted to the federal government early this year. Morgan discussed changes in teacher and principal evaluation. Morgan has previously said the state government will need to change state law due to an existing law which requires pay increases through step increases.

• The board will present millage requests and its vacant seat to county council Aug. 14.

• “Happy Feet,” sponsored by the Camden and West Wateree Rotary Club, will provide shoes and school supplies for students from 8  to 11 a.m. at K-Mart on Saturday, Aug. 18.

• Trustees noted that the Shrine Club Jamboree will be held tonight at Camden High School at 6:30.

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