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School budget not out of woods yet

Posted: April 5, 2011 5:12 p.m.
Updated: April 6, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) 2011-12 budget is “much more favorable than expected.”

That’s what KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan told members of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees at its Tuesday evening meeting.

The school district’s budget for next year will total $61.3 million, which is a 2.3 percent increase as compared to the current year’s budget.

But, Morgan added, it’s still reflects a 15 percent decrease since July of 2008.

“This is a much more favorable situation than we had expected. If you remember, I came back from a superintendent’s meeting in January, and when I listened to what they told us, we were anticipating a $3.5 million cut in state funds,” Morgan said. “But some things have happened since then; the House has passed a budget that uses $100 million in one-time capital contingency funds to fill some of the gap, and that gap is primarily because of the loss of federal stimulus funds that have held us together during the past two years.”

Under the new preliminary budget, Morgan said the school district will continue to meet state and federal mandates, maintain class sizes by preserving teacher jobs and maintain programs and services that most impact achievement. Additionally, the budget includes continuing furloughs and salary freezes and fees that were implemented last year, as well as reductions of discretionary line items.

“The level of services that we have this year -- be it media assistants or nurses, including all of the ones who are currently in place -- have been included in the budget proposal that is in front of you tonight,” Morgan said.

Included in a list of budget reductions are the elimination of one district-level clerical position through reorganization; reduction of three special needs assistants based on projected Individualized Education Programs; reduction of instructional assistants from 182 to 180 days; and reduction of guidance counselor time at Applied Technical Education Campus (ATEC) from 225 days to 205 days.

Furthermore, there will be an elimination of school-based clerical positions -- specifically at Camden High School, Camden Elementary School, Lugoff-Elgin High School, Doby’s Mill Elementary School and Pine Tree Hill School – in addition to a reduction in days for some other clerical positions.

“And we’re recommending that the middle school athletic director stipends be eliminated and they delegate this to assistant principals in the middle schools. Back in the dark ages when I was a middle school assistant principal, that was one of my jobs. And we have a smaller program than most middle schools,” he said.

Morgan said a large portion of the proposed reductions will also be used to increase funding in other areas, including a $40,000 increase for substitutes, $60,000 increase for media center materials and supplies and $100,000 addition to remedial services to replace lost state funding for technical assistance and at-risk services.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion over the last couple of years of where we’ve gotten the bang for the dollar in instruction, and I really believe that technical assistance and at-risk money has been critical,” he said. “It takes kids who are especially struggling in reading -- they get their 90-minute language arts block and then they get 30, 35 or 40 more minutes. The key to get kids who are struggling with reading to read better is to give them more reading instruction, and the research is very clear on the importance of double-dosing those kids.”

Even with those assumptions, he added, the board will still have to find a way to deal with a $415,000 budget gap because of the loss of state and federal revenue.

“I’m recommending that we use $415,000 of fund balance, which over half of it would come from $222,000 of (higher-than anticipated stabilization funds payments in the current year),” he said.

Morgan recommended the board do a line-by-line review of everything included in the budget at its next meeting. Additionally, he said, he will also conduct a series of staff and community meetings to discuss the budget with the public.

Warning the board there are still several bills under consideration by the General Assembly that could pose a significant impact on the final budget, Morgan said this budget process will probably continue for another couple of months.

“We’ll probably be working on this for the next several months. I don’t expect the state to pass a budget until May, and obviously until that’s done and we see some detail we can’t finish what we’re doing,” he said.

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