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School board sends millage options to council

Also, trustees vote to name new ATEC after Woolard

Posted: May 21, 2018 5:15 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) officials will appear at tonight’s Kershaw County Council meeting in order to bring forward two options in regard to requested 5.4 mil tax increase for the district.

The options come in the form of a single unanimous vote during the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ May 15 meeting. The vote followed a nearly hour-long presentation from the co-chairs of a joint board/council ad hoc committee on growth, school resource officer (SRO) funding and school safety.

The first option would be for council to agree to grant the district a 5.4 millage increase -- the maximum increase allowable under state law -- in order to fund the following:

• One mental health coordinator;

• two mental health workers;

• two SROs; and

• academic intervention programs.

The second option would be for council to accept the ad hoc committee’s immediate, mid-range and long-range recommendations.

Immediate recommendations:

• Freezing the current SRO funding as currently divided between the county and district for the remainder of the current fiscal year and Fiscal Year 2019.

• Create a committee to include representatives from both the county and district to meet periodically to discuss needs, projects and funding issues.

• Use a specific growth formula as a guide for determining the district’s funding needs for growth.

Mid-range recommendations:

• Officially adopt the growth funding formula.

• Phase the costs of funding additional SROs to the district over a five- to seven-year period in conjunction with the growth formula to insure adequate funds.

• Using legal means, lobbying and citizen input to make up an estimated $80 million shortfall to the district since the enactment of Act 388, which shifted the burden of education revenue from primary homes to second homes, businesses and investments and a 1 percent sales tax.

• Study and discuss the use of builder impact fees in order to generate more funding for the county and district.

Long-range recommendations:

• Establish a subcommittee on growth initiatives from within the ad hoc committee to seek ways to develop retail economic growth within the county.

• Create and hire someone to fill a county retail economic development position.

• Develop joint planning and other ventures between the county, district, municipalities (Bethune, Camden, Elgin) and the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce.

The ad hoc committee also dived deeper into the areas of mental health initiatives and SRO funding. Recommendations included:

• Creating and hiring someone for the position of mental health coordinator, with the hiring of more mental health counselors being a possible necessity.

• Finding a way to expand the district’s joint venture with the University of South Carolina and LiveWell Kershaw to provide mental health counselors beyond the North Central area where the venture currently focuses.

• School-based anti-bullying/climate programs and initiatives developed with school improvement councils and other community stakeholders.

• Hiring three additional SROs for the district’s three high schools and eight additional SROs for elementary schools at a cost of $1.1 million for the first year and $781,000 per year in recurring costs. (This would presumably be after the current and Fiscal 2019 freeze.)

• Purchasing 51 radios -- two per elementary school, three per middle school, four per high school, three for the Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC), and two for the Continuous Learning Center -- to be compatible with law enforcement radio systems at a first-year cost of $214,000 and $13,056 per year in recurring costs.

In order to fund the mental health coordinator and additional school resource officers, the ad hoc committee discussed two options:

• Implement a $10 vehicle fee, exempting vehicle owners who are 70 years of age and older; or

• charge an $85 flat fee to all taxpayers.

Trustee Todd McDonald, who served as the ad hoc committee’s co-chair, said the committee acknowledged the $85 fee would have a greater burden on taxpayers with, however, less impact than the vehicle fee. Due to that, but also acknowledging that it would not fix all issues nor fully cover requested items, McDonald said the ad hoc committee believes the vehicle fee would have an immediate impact on schools and their safety.

Kershaw County Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr., McDonald’s fellow co-chair for the ad hoc committee, assisted with the presentation. At the end of the presentation Tucker said council would be unlikely to consider the county’s millage request if it did not include funding for additional SROs.

After Tucker left the meeting, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan confirmed that Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns “insisted” that SROs be included in the board’s millage calculation. On May 1, Morgan and KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson made a budget presentation to council that included the 5.4 millage increase request. That request originally split up the estimated $556,000 in additional funding as follows:

• $95,000 for the mental health coordinator;

• $310,000 to fund the existing health care workers, which are currently being funded by a state revenue stream earmarked for at-risk students;

• $20,000 for an engineering teacher at ATEC; and

• $90,000 to support yearly “consumables” required for STEM education for upper elementary and middle-school students.

Several board members, including Chairman James Smith, noted that in making the revised request, the board is shifting away from the priorities it identified during its May 1 meeting in favor of the county’s “demand” for SROs. Smith also recalled that Morgan’s proposal during that meeting would have allowed district funds currently paying for items covered in the original millage request to be redirected to classroom expenses.

However, McDonald said that the “hot topic” on council and in the community since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February has been school safety over education itself.

Although Trustee Ron Blackmon later voted in favor of the motion to provide the choice of a millage increase to include SRO funding or the ad hoc committee’s recommendations, he insisted SROs are not an education resource.

After some other discussion, but before the final vote, Morgan said he would draft a letter to council that would include a statement that the board considers school safety a governmental issue, not an educational one.

While Trustee Derrick Proctor didn’t disagree with that sentiment, he said that he understands the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office is not going to offer SROs out of its budget. Therefore, Proctor said, someone else would have to do so.

The final vote in favor of offering the two options to council was 8-0-1 with Smith abstaining.

In other business, trustees voted unanimously to name the new ATEC facility under construction near I-20 Exit 98 as the Dr. Gil G. Woolard Technology Center. A large group of supporters in favor of the name applauded following the vote, which itself came after five people spoke during public forum.

Among the speakers were Woolard’s son, David; and Laurie Smith Pate, the daughter of former school trustee Jim Smith. Woolard said his family appreciated the board’s consideration of naming the facility after his father. Pate said her father moved to Kershaw County in 1968 when Woolard hired him to teach auto mechanics at ATEC after returning from serving in the Vietnam War. She said her father would not recognition for himself, but for his best friend: Gil Woolard.

When it came time to vote a little later in the meeting, Chairman Smith barely got the words out to call for the motion when Trustee Kim Horton DuRant loudly made the motion, which was quickly seconded and unanimously approved. Smith said the board had received many emails and other messages in favor of naming the new ATEC for Woolard.

Also, trustees:

• voted unanimously to approve a policy change to adjust the grade point average requirement for academic honors medals starting with the class of 2019 from 3.5 to 3.9 due to moving to a 10-point uniform grading scale;

• unanimously accepted a guaranteed minimum price of $4.395 million from Thompson and Turner Construction for renovations planned at Camden High School;

• unanimously voted to move its Tuesday, June 12 meeting to Monday, June 11, due to the Republican and Democratic primaries; and

• entered executive session to discuss several employment matters, including an employee appeal, and a student appeal.

Following the executive session, the board voted unanimously in favor of accepting the administration’s recommendations concerning several employees, including -- as revealed in a press release issued Wednesday morning -- hiring Windsor Elementary Assistant Principal Sherrill Creel in Richland School District 2 as the new principal for Blaney Elementary (BES) starting July 1, replacing Ed Yount who is moving to the Upstate to be a principal there.

Separately, trustees voted, 8-1, with DuRant voting against, to accept the administration’s recommendation for “Employee B.” The board then voted unanimously to accept the administration’s recommendation to dismiss “Employee A” and deny their request for an appeal hearing.

Trustees also voted unanimously to accept the administration’s recommendation regarding the student appeal issue, but did not state what that recommendation entailed.


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