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KCSD: 1¢ sales tax will cover all Phase 2 projects

Posted: August 7, 2014 3:54 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Based on a report from the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (SCRFAO), the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) proposed 1-cent sales tax will completely offset the need to raise any millage for a $130 million bond issue to pay for projects in Phase 2 of the district’s facilities equalization project (FEP). Phase 2 projects include new school construction, renovations to existing schools and upgrades to athletic facilities.

The SCRFAO prepares​ statistical reports and revenue projections to state and county officials.

“A penny sales tax equals no property tax,” KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson told the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees during its meeting Tuesday night. “The report was much better than what I was expecting.”

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Wilson said he sought out information about penny sales tax revenues from Kershaw County and received a figure that included only the county’s portion of a local option sales tax (LOST). He said he was waiting on the SCRFAO report in order to include LOST revenue figures earned by the city of Camden and towns of Bethune and Elgin.

The district had estimated that -- without the 1-cent sales tax or any other adjustments made by the district -- Kershaw County would have to, as required by law, raise property tax millage by 35 mils to cover the $130 million bond issue.

That estimate fell by 9 mills thanks to a proposal to refinance existing debt, satisfying existing technology leases and reducing those leases in the future.

Following a change in state law, the district proposed implementing the 1-cent sales tax in order to reduce the millage by another 17 mils -- a figure based only on the equivalent of the county’s portion of LOST revenue. That would leave Kershaw County to implement only a 9-mill increase.

Tuesday night, and based on the SCRFAO’s report on total LOST revenue estimates that include the county and all three municipalities, Wilson said the 1-cent sales tax will reduce the millage increase by 30 mills, leaving only a 5-mill increase that would then be wiped out by administrative measures. If the 1-cent sales tax generates even more money than expected, that surplus would be used -- as dictated by state law -- to pay off existing debt.

During a follow-up conversation Thursday, Wilson also pointed out that a statewide penny sales tax enacted by Act 388 in 2006 completely offsets any millage owed on owner occupied homes. As the C-I reported Wednesday, a “School Tax” of 156.9 mills is assessed on primary residences each year. Using the median price of homes in Kershaw County of $91,000, a home tax owner would pay $621.24 for school operations. However, as part of several exemptions deducted from a tax bill, Act 388 grants a 100 percent “Residential School Tax Credit” to offset the “School Tax” on owner occupied homes.

Trustees appeared pleased at the prospect of not having to hit property owners with any millage increase, assuming voters approve both the project list and penny sales tax referenda.

On a related note, the board approved on separate 8-1 votes, with Trustee Kim Durant voting against, on modifications to the wording of both the project list and 1-cent sales tax referenda.

The board unanimously approved the sale of $12.5 million worth of bonds to pay down debt associated with Phase 1 of the FEP.

Also Tuesday, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan reported on student registration for the 2014-15 school year.

“The registration went really smoothly,” Morgan said. “As of today we have 85 percent of our students registered. We are fully hired and prepared for the upcoming school year.”

Other reports included:

• KCSD Executive Director for Operations Billy Smith on progress employees have made this summer in projects listed on the district’s deferred maintenance project list: using before-and-after photos, Smith said of the 20 schools on the list there were a total of 81 separate projects. Of those, 36 have been completed and two are underway. Smith praised his workers for accomplishing so much in such a short period of time over the summer school break.

• KCSD Executive Director of Instruction Tim Hopkins on a summer reading camp attended by 32 third grade students.

“These students were selected from across the district and received intensive reading instruction for six weeks this summer at Jackson School,” Hopkins said. “I am proud to inform you that collectively as a group they improved their reading skills by nine percentage points. Twelve of the students made double digit improvements.”

• KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instructional Support Systems Dr. Alisa Goodman on the district’s five-year comprehensive strategic plan to improve curriculum and teaching skills.

“During July, 120 expert teachers worked for a total of 504 hours on 30 areas of instruction for the plan,” Goodman said. “Each of the 30 plans included preliminary work on district strengths, needs, performance goals, best practices, resources and technology for a plan to be implemented in 2015-2016 and continue on to 2020.”

Goodman said that common to many of the 30 plans are activities, resources and practices. They include professional development; cross curricular and cross county collaboration; common benchmark assessments; differentiated instruction and flexible grouping; more technology with common proven software programs and training; a “bring your own device” pilot program; 4K programs in all elementary schools; use of data and data teams to drive instruction; revised pacing guides; and college and career readiness activities for transition to post-secondary life.

Trustees also entered executive session to privately discuss personnel issues. No action was taken after returning to open session to adjourn.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn contributed to this report.)


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