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School board passes 2013-14 budget

Appropriates $500,000 for deferred maintenance

Posted: June 7, 2013 4:34 p.m.
Updated: June 10, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees unanimously passed, 6-0, the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) $69 million budget for the 2013-14 school year. Trustees Louis Clyburn, Don Copley and Nissary Wood were absent from the June 4 meeting at the district’s offices.

The budget is essentially the same as a preliminary budget presented to the board by KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan in March. Staff reviewed budget line items with the board in early April and then received feedback from both staff and the public during budget hearings later that month.

Morgan said the proposed budget reflected a version of the state budget passed by the S.C. House of Representatives and that a final budget had not been adopted as of May 30. He said, however, that administrators expected that the final budget would maintain the House’s proposal of a base student cost of $2,101 -- more than in Fiscal Year 2013, but $700 less than required by law.

"The impact of that $700 … would add another $5.7 million, and we could restore the 50 teachers that we (cut) five years ago. We could restore programs. We could restore line items. We could probably do a lot of things -- we could increase 4K programs. There’s lots of things we could do. Unfortunately, that’s not where the state budget is right now," Morgan said.

He also said the budget reflected the fact that Kershaw County Council had yet to make a final decision on the district’s recent millage request for an additional 3.5 mills. Morgan did note, however, that Councilman Stephen Smoak appeared to indicate a willingness to let the district know about the millage decision sooner rather than later.

"I want to emphasize to the public and the board, if we do get funding from council, that funding will be used to hire more teachers," Morgan said, and then repeated, "hire more teachers, because that is what the public is demanding."

He said that conclusion came from feedback gained from public meetings on the budget. Among those teaching positions he said the public would like is middle school foreign language, an area in which he said the district lags compared to other Midlands districts. If council does pass the additional millage, Morgan said he would bring back recommendations on June 27.

In addition to approving the budget itself, Morgan asked on behalf of district administrators to authorize the use of $500,000 from the budget’s fund balance to address deferred maintenance projects. The list of deferred projects includes nearly every school in the district. It covers a wide variety of needs, ranging from replacing carpeting in a multi-purpose room at Baron DeKalb Elementary School to repairing wall cracks from foundation settling at Lugoff Elementary School and the Applied Technology Education Campus to installing a security entrance at Camden High School’s main building.

"I will say, that’s a one-year solution at best," Morgan said of the maintenance needs.

Part of the discussion of the budget focused on three Ford Taurus cars the district maintains that used to belong to a defunct driver’s education program. Trustee Kim Horton Durant asked why they were still on the books.

Morgan explained that there were three teachers who taught driver’s education courses that were moved to other positions four years ago. He said that if one high school asks to have driver’s education reinstated, that would bring up "equity issues" with the other two high schools. Morgan said the decision was made to keep the cars so they could be used for trips where there are too few students to justify the use of a bus. He also said he believes high school principals are concerned about other things than bringing back driver’s education.

"Frankly, they want to get electives back," he said. "I’ll also tell you that the elementary school principals will tell you that their related arts offerings are their biggest concerns."

Morgan said if the district charged parents what it actually would cost to offer driver’s education, it would be much more than that charged by professional driver instruction businesses. He suggested if parents really want driver’s education back, they should speak with legislators about base student cost and to council about local funding.

Trustee Ron Blackmon said North Central area students should have access to the same opportunities as Camden and Lugoff students to take advantage of professional driving instruction. Jones, however, said she believed driving instructors do come out to the North Central and other rural areas of the county to pick up and instruct students.

Along with passing the proposed 2013-14 budget, trustees also unanimously passed a request to approve final figures for the current 2012-13 budget. Morgan explained that as the school year comes closer to an end June 30, the budget will now more closely reflect actual figures rather than those projected a year ago.

Following a report from Trustee Matt Irick on a recent facilities/finance committee meeting that touched on both the 2013-14 budget, 2012-13 year-end projections among other items, Morgan expressed his pleasure at how the district was doing financially. He did warn, however, that things are not completely the way they should be.

"If you look at the numbers … the financial turnaround that this district, given what happened -- we lost $12 million in the span of about 14 months -- to say it’s miraculous is an understatement," Morgan said. "I think the board made tough decisions and I think as a district, we did the things we had to do."

Morgan also noted that the last two projects connected with Phase I facility upgrades from the district’s $102 million 2006 installment purchase plan were recently completed. He said the fact that the district managed to get many more projects out of that money completed than were originally approved proves that the district can handle a future bond for Phase II projects.

In addition to approving the new budget and updates to the current budget, trustees also unanimously approved the district’s annual application for federal Title I funds. The request is the same as for the 2012-13 school year, approximately $2.4 million.

Title I programs support literacy efforts in those schools eligible for such funding.

Following an executive session, voted unanimously to approve two personnel recommendations. Among those recommendations was one to approve an additional 12 days of sick leave to a first-grade teacher who has been a member of the district’s sick leave bank since 2007. In a memorandum attached to the June 4 agenda, Morgan explained that the teacher with a degenerative cervical disc disease for which they had surgery in March. Due to the diagnosis, the teacher’s doctor placed them as out of work in February. The board previously approved 15 of 27 days originally requested on May 8. KCSD teachers are granted a total of 70 sick leave days per year, but can be granted more with approval by the superintendent and board.

In other business:

• In her chairperson’s report, Jones noted that Trustee Clyburn’s daughter, Beth Brown, who once worked at Camden Elementary School, is in critical condition. Jones also noted the passing of philanthropist Leonard Price, who recently donated land for a possible elementary school in the North Central area; the three high school graduation ceremonies; and the need for trustees to alert the board if they are not going to be able to attend meetings.

• In his superintendent’s report, Morgan expressed his pleasure that 70 adult education students received their GEDs or diplomas June 3, double the number in 2012. He also noted that this summer will be a busy one for the district with the various maintenance projects and other preparations for the next school year, saying there would be a "beehive of activity during the next 10 weeks."

• Trustee Shirley Halley provided a report on the board’s "Day at the Capital."

At the beginning of the meeting, three Blaney Elementary School (BES) parents -- Sharon Hoagland and her husband, Leif, and Tracey Carpenter-Barnwell -- expressed a desire for staff at the school to do more to keep sex offenders from being on school grounds. Hoagland said she felt BES staff needed to be "reeducated" on the district’s sex offender policy. She claimed that there were two instances where a man on the sex offender registry "wandered about" the school. Carpenter-Barnwell also claimed there was a time where a sex offender allegedly signed into the school under a name other than their own.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday, KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said Hoagland’s examples dealt with the same man, that he is the father of a student and followed district policy.

"If they are planning to attend their child’s event on campus, they are to alert the principal ahead of time so that we’d be aware and have a staff person with them the entire time they’re on campus," Byrd said. "We were aware he was there and did monitor his behavior, so he was never there with another student other than his own child."

Byrd said while the man was in his child’s classroom, there was always a teacher present. She also said that KCSD policy is in line with that of neighboring districts.

While state law proscribes where a sex offender may live in relation to their home’s proximity to a school, it does not automatically take away their parental rights.

Hoagland and Carpenter-Barnwell asked that the board and district consider installing LobbyGuard, a visitor management system and tracking software solution out of Raleigh, N.C.

"You come in, have your driver’s license. Swipe (it) and it would tell you everything you’ve done," Hoagland said. "I have been stopped for speeding, so it would show that, as well as any other offense -- DUI, you’ve robbed a bank in the ’70s and now you’re out of jail -- you get my drift."

Leif Hoagland said there has been some discussion of funding LobbyGuard implementation through the PTA fundraising or with funds already in reserve. Carpenter-Barnwell said she believes LobbyGuard would cost less than $2,000 to install.


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