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Letter: What about the ad hoc committee recommendations?

Posted: July 16, 2018 3:03 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Last fall, county council authorized the formation of an ad hoc committee, which included representation from council, the school board, the business community, the city of Camden, and the towns of Elgin and Bethune. The committee, which was very ably chaired by Mr. Sammie Tucker from county council and Mr. Todd McDonald from the school board, was initially charged with developing recommendations for council concerning funding for enrollment growth and for school resource officers (SROs).

While school safety is very understandable to the public, the challenge of enrollment growth might require some explanation. The county’s own Vision 2030 document clearly shows that significant growth is occurring now and will continue to occur far into the foreseeable future. As I have pointed out to council on several occasions, enrollment growth generates costs that go beyond just regular classroom teachers. The new students coming to Kershaw County bring needs for second language services, special education services, remedial services, and health-related services among other areas. As an example, the district’s second language population has more than doubled over the past several years. Growth has costs.

The school board has no control over the residential development that drives enrollment growth. This is the purview of council. Nor does the school board have control over its local funding, which is also dictated by council. Ten years ago, we had a very reasonable local maintenance of effort formula in place to fund enrollment growth and inflation. When the General Assembly ended the legal requirement for local maintenance of effort, council immediately stopped funding the formula. Maintenance of effort has not been part of any budget conversation since then. How to manage enrollment growth is a can that was simply kicked down the road by county leadership until the ad hoc committee was asked to look at it.

The ad hoc committee completed a slate of very reasonable and practical recommendations about SRO and growth funding in early 2018. Before a report could be presented to council, the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Fla. occurred, and council asked the committee to reconvene and develop further recommendations concerning school safety.
The committee spent a great deal of time over a two-month period researching and developing additional recommendations concerning school safety. The committee’s entire report was presented to council in May. The final report included a very conservative growth funding formula and comprehensive proposals addressing SROs, mental health, and several other areas impacting safety. The report also included creative strategies to fund the safety proposals.

It is encouraging that council did choose to fund one additional SRO in its budget, although two other motions to fund more officers were voted down. As council works over the coming weeks on its annual millage ordinance, I would hope that the well-reasoned recommendations of the ad hoc committee will receive further serious consideration.

I believe it would send a very negative signal for council to not fully and carefully consider all the recommendations of a broad-based citizen group that was authorized by council. Safety and growth are both challenges that need to be addressed with a sense of urgency. Last year, council acted very decisively through additional millage to address the serious EMS issue. The recommendations of the ad hoc committee merit similar strong attention and should not be put on a shelf to gather dust.

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