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Column: The budget process

Posted: February 22, 2018 3:27 p.m.
Updated: February 23, 2018 1:00 a.m.

I talk about budget a lot. I do so because I think it’s that important. The decisions made during the budget process directly impact the quality of services we will be able to provide students during the school year that starts this coming August.

This year’s budget will present a number of challenges, some recurring and some new. I also hope to do some different things with this year’s process in order to generate more meaningful discussion among stakeholders about what a quality school district should be doing.


As I said, some of the budgetary challenges that the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) faces this year are ones that still remain from the economic downturn. Many of the teaching and other critical support positions we cut during the downturn have still not been restored. This continues to impact class size and course offerings in elective areas such as the arts, gifted, foreign language, Advanced Placement and technical areas. It also impacts areas like remedial services for students who need extra help to be successful. We’re definitely lacking there.

In addition, our teacher salaries continue to lag behind neighboring districts by as much as $3,000. Unless we get a handle on this issue pretty quickly, our school district will have an increasingly difficult time attracting and retaining teachers, not to mention other critical personnel. During the past several years, KCSD has had success in terms of recruiting teachers especially from northern states. However, as the national teacher shortage has worsened, these candidates are now being picked off by Virginia and North Carolina because of higher salaries in these states. For a recent college graduate who has significant debt to repay, $2,000-$3,000 per year amounts to a monthly loan payment. While the state certainly has to step up to help solve this problem, it is also a local funding issue.

Funding enrollment growth is an issue that will only become bigger with the passing of time. There is a tremendous amount of approved housing development in both the West Wateree and Camden areas, which will soon turn into actual houses, especially if the economy continues to improve. Folks with children want to move to Kershaw County because we have a good reputation for quality schools.

That said, the needs generated by enrollment growth go beyond just regular classroom teachers. Additional students require more special education teachers, more second language teachers, more assistants, more bus drivers, more nurses and health services personnel -- you name it. We are well past the point that we can simply stretch existing resources without significantly reducing program quality.

I am hopeful that our school board and county council can come to some agreement over a growth funding formula moving forward. As I have frequently stated, the school board has absolutely no control over residential development, but is still responsible for educating the children who live in these new homes. Because of Act 388, our school district receives no tax funding for school operations for primary residences. I don’t see Act 388 being eliminated anytime soon. Solutions that work within the constraints of the law need to be identified by our elected officials.

While there are other challenges, these are the ones that most directly impact students at the classroom level, which is always my first concern.

Changes in the budget process

I am very proud of the fact that our school district budget process has always been very public and transparent. I am also excited that we plan to do some different things during this year’s process that I hope will result in more public engagement.

I am particularly happy that our school improvement councils are holding meetings involving their county council and school board representatives to talk about the critical needs in the schools and community perspective on the programs and services our schools should be providing. (I’m most appreciative of county council members participating in these discussions.) I am hopeful that these meetings will generate productive dialogue between elected officials and stakeholders. It’s one thing for the superintendent to say something is needed. It is much more meaningful for elected officials to hear it from parents and other constituents.

For the past several months, an ad hoc committee of county council members, school board members and other community leaders has been meeting to discuss both the funding of school resource officers and an enrollment and inflation-driven local funding formula for KCSD. The committee has had some very good discussion, and I am hopeful that this work will yield a formula that will provide a more predictable local revenue stream that reflects both the growth of our county and inflation. We haven’t had a predictable local funding formula for almost 10 years.

When I present the school board with a proposed budget in late March, I hope to present two versions, including a balanced budget and a budget that includes some critical need areas that could not be included in a balanced budget. I will also present these budgets in a two-year format, which will promote better long-range planning. I anticipate that this approach will lead to more in-depth discussion about the needs of the school district.

Based on feedback from community members, I will present the budgets in both the normal formats and in a more simplified format. We’re trying to do whatever we can to make what is obviously a complex document more understandable.

Get involved!

Everyone who lives in Kershaw County has an important stake in our school district. What occurs during the budget process has a direct impact on the quality of services we will be able to provide to our students next year. Once a proposed budget is developed and under review and consideration by the school board, there will be a lot of opportunity for the public to be informed and weigh in with feedback. As superintendent, I want this to be open, reflective and transparent process.

Our school district’s mission is “to educate all students for success.” The budget is a key part of meeting this mission.

I’m always pleased to talk with folks about our schools. My direct dial phone number is 425-8916 and my email is Citizens can also contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district website. I also invite community members to read my “blog,” which can also be reached through a link on the homepage of the district website. In addition, I do a podcast after each school board meeting summarizing the meeting. This podcast can also be accessed through a link on the district homepage.


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