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Schools budget in ‘suspended animation’

Also, groundbreaking for new schools set for Monday

Posted: May 18, 2017 5:05 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) administrators and the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees were unable to take any further action on its proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget Tuesday night because state legislators haven’t taken any further action of their own on the state budget.

“Essentially, we are still in suspended animation,” KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said as he brought up Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson to explain.

Wilson agreed, saying the district had not moved forward, but hadn’t moved backwards, either.

“So, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Reading from a S.C. Association of School Business Officials newsletter, Wilson said legislators are returning to the State House this coming Tuesday to handle some issues via a sine die resolution and then adjourn for 2017, which is the first year of a two-year legislative session. Both houses passed the sine die resolution -- or “without day” -- on April 29, setting May 11 as their day of adjournment, but providing that they should come back into session Tuesday at noon, if necessary, but to not meet any later than 5 p.m. May 25.

“Unless there is something that could impact the operation of state government in a really negative way, they may not even address all of the governor’s vetoes. They may wait until January,” Wilson said.

Jan. 9, 2018, is the date set in the sine die resolution for the General Assembly to come back into session after May 25.

Coupled with that, Wilson said the newsletter indicated the legislature may use next Tuesday to consider not only the state’s general appropriation, supplementary appropriation and capital reserve fund bills, but a continuing resolution to fund “ordinary expenses” of state government. 

“The general definition of that is, when you flop over into the next fiscal year, on July 1st, the spending is exactly the same as it was the year before,” Wilson said. “They have already sent through portions of the appropriations bill from the conference committee, which includes the base student cost increase. Does that fall under different action? I don’t know the answer to that. Or is it part of the continuing resolution?”

For the moment, Wilson said, the district plans to work with the same figures it rolled out to the board during its last two meetings, which included a State Senate-approved $85 increase in the base student cost (BSC). The BSC is the amount per pupil the legislature sends as state funding to South Carolina’s school districts.

However, Wilson warned the budget could be different when the board considers the proposal during its first meeting in June.

“It could change dramatically. If all these things fall under a continuing resolution, then we’re going to have drop that base student cost increase,” Wilson said.

That would lower the increase to a S.C. House proposal of only $50 per student.

“What I believe … is it came out of conference committee -- that part … but it has to go back to the House for approval, and they didn’t take action on it,” Wilson said. “This is bizarre. Every year, I think I’ve seen it all and then someone else kind of crazy happens.”

He did confirm for Trustee Dr. Don Copley that S.C. Senate numbers have historically prevailed, which is why the district is moving forward with the $85 BSC increase for the moment. Wilson and Morgan said they have multiple versions of the budget ready for a public hearing at the board’s next meeting and for the board to consider in June.

Construction update

As part of a referenda-approved construction projects update, Morgan announced that groundbreaking ceremonies for the district’s three replacement elementary schools -- Camden, Lugoff and Wateree -- will take place Monday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.

Morgan said the groundbreakings are taking place Monday so that students from the existing schools and community members can be a part of the ceremonies. He invited trustees to attend any or all of the groundbreakings, saying there would plenty of shovels and hard hats to go around.

Morgan reported that roofing work at Mt. Pisgah Elementary School (MPES) is underway and that the electronic signs for North Central high and middle schools, Bethune Elementary School and MPES have been installed. He also spoke briefly about a proposed S.C. Department of Transportation-funded walking trail. The district will spend no money on the trail and trustees voted unanimously a short time later to approve the project.

Morgan then had Eddie Rodelsperger, of Pike-McFarland-Hall Consultants, explain a proposal to the board to approve a guaranteed maximum price contract to Thompson and Turner Construction for $495,684 to reroof Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS). The project will cover the hallway leading from the L-EHS office where water often leaks. Rodelsperger listed out a complicated set of tasks to conduct the reroofing and noted that it is actually only the first phase of a two-phase project. Some work will begin May 30; the second phase will begin in January 2018.

Rodelsperger’s proposal is lower than what Thompson and Turner asked for because it would not include $6,165 for “additional safety and fall protection.” He said that type of item should be included in a subcontracting roofer’s base contract.

“The roofer is supposed to supply all materials and equipment necessary for safety measures for the re-roofing. We didn’t see a need to get charged twice for that,” Rodelsperger said. “We felt like it was Thompson and Turner’s responsibility to hold the contractor responsible for doing what’s supposed to be done for safety and not have a contingency somewhere for something someone else is getting paid to do.”

Trustees voted unanimously to award the contract to Thompson and Turner under Rodelsperger’s conditions.

Also, following an executive session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, trustees voted unanimously to accept the administration’s recommendations concerning an undisclosed number of employment matters.

However, trustees split on a 6-1-1 vote to accept a recommendation from the administration concerning language for a proposed contractual agreement for “Employee A.” Blackmon, Copley and trustees Shirley Halley, Todd McDonald, Derrick Proctor and Mark Sury voted in favor of the contract language. Trustee Kim DuRant voted “no” and Trustee Dr. James Smith abstained. Trustee Matt Irick left the meeting before the vote.

No one disclosed the specific job or the type of position the contract would affect during the meeting. In an email Wednesday, KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said the vote concerned a coaching position somewhere in the district.

In other business Tuesday:

• The board unanimously approved revisions to policies concerning school wellness and academic honors/class rank, but tabled a third policy on community use of school facilities. Based on a recommendation from the district’s insurance agency, trustees were asked to approve a revision whereby those looking to rent school facilities would have to show that they had obtained $1 million worth of insurance. Trustees asked to hold off on the revision until they could learn more about costs the public might incur.

• The board recognized achievements by L-EHS Baseball Coach Randy Stokes; North Central High School being named a Bronze Award recipient by U.S. News & World Report; and student achievements in various competitions at the Applied Education Technology Campus.

• At Chairman Ron Blackmon’s request, trustees will examine one portion each -- based on employee categories -- of the recently completed district-wide all-employee survey. Trustees will present their summaries at a later date.

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