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'Worst case' school budget may be less severe

Posted: May 19, 2011 6:20 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Tuesday night, the Kershaw County School Board of Trustees was all set to craft a “worst case scenario budget” for the 2011-12 fiscal year at Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan’s recommendation.

That all changed Wednesday as the S.C. Senate passed a bill to funnel $105 million into education, which will raise the base student cost from $1,788 per student to $1,959. The Kershaw County School District (KSSD) has indicated it will use a more conservative estimate of around $1,900 for the proposed budget.

KCSD Communications Director Mary Anne Byrd said the revenue increase is “extremely favorable” and will give the board more options to consider, including no local millage increase.  Other cuts the board has had to consider during this budget cycle might not be necessary if this amendment is passed through the House and signed by the governor. The administration will present new budget projections at the board’s next finance committee meeting May 24.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson projected the district will have $60.6 million in revenue, but $61.1 million in expenses, leaving roughly $546,000 coming out of the reserve to make up for the shortfall.

Wilson’s revenue projections Tuesday were formulated on a $1,725 base student cost.

“Now it’s important to keep in mind that this number can change,” Wilson said, based on what the state legislatures decide.

A downside, Wilson told the board, is that the school district will not receive $1 million in stimulus funds it did last year.

“This is not an assumption, this is reality,” Wilson said.

Reductions he proposed to the board included the reduction of two teaching positions, the reduction of clerical positions, the elimination of middle school athletic department supplements, reduction in guidance at ATEC, eliminate study hall assistants, reduction of instructional assistants and not filling the vacancy of a science teacher at North Central High School.

“Most of these reductions will be taken care of through attrition,” Wilson said. “It’s not reducing a person. It’s reducing a position.”

However, Wilson suggested increasing funds to go toward technical assistants, library allocation funding and allocations for substitutes.

“This in no way brings us up to full funding for these programs, but it’s more to provide relief since these areas have received no funding for two years,” he said.

No salary increase or step increases are included in the proposed budget.

Trustee Matt Irick asked Wilson how much it would cost to implement the step increase for KCSD teachers, which Wilson estimated would cost the district “somewhere around $700,000.”

Basically, Wilson explained, any changes made to the reductions he has proposed will have to come out of the reserve funds.

“If you want to put more money into something else, it will have an effect on the bottom line,” he said.

A millage increase was also discussed Tuesday night as a solution to budget woes.

Wilson recommended the board plan a budget around current funds without an increase, and then have a plan in place for additional money if Kershaw County Council decides to raise the millage.

Morgan agreed, suggesting the board ask for a millage increase with a specific purpose, like the reduction of a furlough day or funds for athletic and curriculum stipends.

Chairman Joey Dorton said he didn’t feel comfortable asking council for the maximum allowed millage increase; Trustee Dr. Don Copley agreed.

Dorton asked the board if it would be in favor for asking for a 3-mill increase earmarked for a reduced furlough day for district employees.

Copley added, “It’s important that we mention our employees haven’t had raises in three years.”

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 6 p.m. June 21 at the school district office.

In other business:

• The board discussed an I-Can laptop computer implementation plan for 2011-12. A recommended was made to have district high schools use existing laptops for the 2011-12 school year and then buy two years’ worth of new technology in 2012-13.

Morgan said the Japan tsunami has created a shortage of computer parts.

“When you have a supply problem, you have a price problem,” Morgan said.

Along with the purchase of two years’ worth of laptops, it was also recommended to the board to bring technical staff back up to 2008-09 levels to provide the proper maintenance for the new computers.

New computers will be purchased using debt service, a separate fund from the general operating fund used to purchase technology and other capital projects.

• The board voted unanimously to approve Billy Jackson Construction to build wood stud and sheet rock walls in the new district office building for $58,255. The board explored the option of cubicles, but decided it was less expensive to install the walls.

The board also approved McCoy’s Moving and Storage to assist in the district office’s move for $9,250.

• The board approved a request from Life Hope Ministries to use Zemp Stadium for a “Family Fun Day” to raise money for the ministry. The board agreed to waive rental fees, but still expects custodial costs to be paid.

• Trustee Jim Smith recommended the board look into purchasing a hydro seeder to keep school properties looking nice with grass.

• Trustee Shirley Halley commended students at Lugoff-Elgin Middle School for taking the initiative to raise money to buy supplies for families in Alabama after their homes were torn apart in late April from violent storms and tornados.

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