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KCSD to begin 2013-14 budget process Tuesday

Posted: March 15, 2013 5:45 p.m.
Updated: March 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan will present the Kershaw County School Board of Trustees with the first rough draft of the district’s 2013-2014 budget Tuesday night.

Morgan said numbers he was looking at late last week and what he presents to the board Tuesday will likely have changed. State lawmakers recently passed legislation to increase the state’s base student cost (BSC) to $2,101, up from $2,012 for the current school year. That is still $700 less than what it should be legally, Morgan said. In order to talk about creating a new budget, he said it’s important to remember where they are coming from: the fact that the district has made about $30 million in overall cuts since the 2008-09 school year.

This year, KCSD officials have once again tightened their belts and put a hold on about $500,000 worth of restorative projects in response to a denial by Kershaw County Council’s for a millage increase.

Last October, trustees requested about that amount of money -- or 4.7 mills -- to make up for the loss of “hold harmless” funds at the state level. Hold harmless funds were supposed to be a cushion so that school districts were not negatively impacted by Act 388, which placed the burden of school funding on sales taxes. State legislators withheld $20 million state-wide, which cut the almost $500,000 from the school district, in order to provide tax cuts for small businesses and support port-expansion projects. The district has not enjoyed a millage increase in three years. Morgan said he understood conservative spending during the recession, but that it’s time to for the local government to start financially contributing to education again. During the last four years, there has been a proviso in the state budget allowing local governments to suspend “minimum local effort,” defined as flat student enrollment numbers plus cost of living.

The district is still hoping to create a more predictable way to estimate local funding. Administrators learned last year that Kershaw County is among the lowest third in the state in terms of county government education funding.

Although the state tried to provide $60 million in relief to businesses across the state last year, Morgan said the $30 million the school district has cut since 2008 has had a direct impact on Kershaw County businesses. He said there is no way to quantify that, however.

Morgan said he and KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson have been working through how to predict local revenue for the upcoming year. He said they will walk the board through that process Tuesday night. Now, Morgan said, the district must not only prepare for the upcoming year, but the next several years, since federal sequestration is also likely to affect Kershaw County in 2014-15.

One good thing about this year’s budget, Morgan said. is a 2 percent salary increase for employees. Legislators are mandating the increase for teachers, but Morgan said it is important to include all of the district’s employees. The BSC increase is supposed to help cover those costs. Teachers had 12 furlough days last year, but other employees had up to 30, Morgan said. Eighty-one percent of the district’s budget is for people who work in school buildings, Morgan said; only about 3 percent covers administrative costs. The remainder goes to building fees, insurance and the like, he said. Salary increases are a must in the district’s effort to remain as competitive as possible amidst budget cuts. The district has cut about 50 teacher positions since 2008, and about 100 employees, not including a decision to outsource custodial staff.

Morgan said the board will work from last year’s budget survey as it heads into the next fiscal year. He said last year’s survey was a great source of information from the public and still a very valid source to work from. Morgan also said the board will continue to try increasing the budget for various line items that have been affected over the years.

In the meantime, he plans to talk with principals, teachers, parents and students and their respective cabinets in order to create a budget that makes everyone happy. There will be six budget hearings in April in order to solicit community feedback before the board votes on the final budget in May.

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