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KCC nixes school district increase again

Posted: October 14, 2010 4:16 p.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 5:00 a.m.

At least this time they got a vote from Kershaw County Council (KCC). But that was little solace for Kershaw County School District (KCSD) officials, as the possibility of receiving a requested increase in local funding from the county failed to materialize Tuesday.

KCC Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr. made a motion during council’s meeting to approve the district’s request, as he did last month, and this time Councilman Bobby Gary seconded it. But Gary and Tucker were the only two to vote in favor of the motion, which failed 2-5. Last month, no one seconded Tucker’s motion, much to bewilderment of KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan.

The dollar amount in question is approximately $170,000, or 1.6 mills for school district operations. This is strictly for an average increase in student population, the district says, which is based on a rolling average of student enrollment over the last five years.

But the catch is that there will almost certainly be a real decrease in students next year, according to KCSD Finance Director Donnie Wilson. Moreover, this will be the third year in a row with a decrease in student population.

The district’s argument is that in years of substantial student growth -- 160 in  2005-2006, 103 in 2006-2007, 104 in 2007-2008 -- officials didn’t ask for a funding increase in line with the population growth. The district says the millage request formula council and the school board agreed on nearly a decade ago is meant to level off large peaks and troughs.

“Because of this approach, the impact of this abrupt increase in enrollment was absorbed over time versus in one year,” said Matt Irick, chairman of the school board’s finance committee.

This year’s request is the lowest in recent memory, Irick added.

Council Chairman Max Ford, who made his most vocal stance on the matter, said the problem is that if the county increases the funding, it can’t in future years bring it back down, due to state law.

Wednesday, Morgan said he understands council’s concerns, but he’s still trying to figure “on what basis we plan for the upcoming year.”

Irick said he was disappointed in council’s decision and essentially “everything is back on the table,” as far as cuts. He listed 4-K programs at Baron DeKalb Elementary and Blaney Elementary as items that were added above the core curriculum.

Due to state budget cuts and the drop in local funding, the school district has cut more than $12 million from its budget the last two years.

In other business:

• County Administrator Clay Young received a one-year contract extension, putting him at the helm of county operations through December 2012. Council voted 4-3 to extend the contract, with Tucker, Gary and Councilman Stephen Smoak opposing.

Tucker said he didn’t think this was the appropriate time to give him an extension based on the fact there could be as many as four new members on council next year. Smoak appeared to agree with Tucker’s remarks.
Councilman Jimmy Jones, however, praised Young’s performance, insisting that Young had helped the county out of a dire financial situation.

• A voter guide detailing the projects and answering questions in regard to the capital projects sales tax has been altered to remove any “vote yes” terminology. The website listed on the guide, www.pennyforprogresss.net, was also removed, allowing the handout to now be displayed in Kershaw County government buildings, according to the S.C. Ethics Commission.

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