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KCSD opts out of city TIF plan

Posted: October 6, 2011 5:47 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) is opting out of the city of Camden’s proposed tax increment financing (TIF) district.

Kershaw County Board of School Trustees members voted unanimously to send a letter to city officials during its meeting Tuesday evening. Trustee Kim DuRant was not present for the vote.

According to the proposed redevelopment plan, the city of Camden plans to issue bonds to pay for $21 million worth of public and utility improvements to a 126-acre “blighted” area comprising the proposed TIF district. The old Continuous Learning Center and Jackson School buildings, as well as the Camden High School tennis courts on York Street, are located within the proposed district.

If the city creates the TIF district, assessed tax values of properties within the district would be used as a benchmark. Any taxes generated above that benchmark in future years from properties within the district would be placed into a special TIF fund to pay for redevelopment projects. If the district participated, its portion of taxes from properties within that district above the benchmark each year would also be placed in the city’s TIF fund.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said Thursday that although the letter sent to city officials says the school district will decline to participate in the proposed plan, it also “leaves the door open” for it to possibly reconsider their decision in the future.

SAT, ACT scores

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, KCSD Director for Student Assessment Lavoy Carter and KCSD Executive Director for Secondary Education Dr. Agnes Slayman presented the board with an update of the school district’s 2010-11 SAT and ACT scores.

“Our rank last year was 21 and we did fall in our ranking to 31, (according to) the most recent scores. In the overall measure for 2011 you’ll see the district composite score was 1,411, the state score was 1,427 and the national score was 1483,” Carter said, in reference to the school district’s SAT scores. “Our composite score did decrease by 39 points from the previous year, our rank did decrease from 21 to 31 and we did trail the national and state averages.”

However, Carter said, the school district experienced a significant “jump” in the number of students who took the SAT last year. Fifty-three percent of the district’s seniors tested using the SAT, in comparison to 44 percent of district seniors who took the SAT last year.

One of the district’s challenges now, Morgan said, will be to talk about plans that will get incoming high school students into classes “at the right level of rigor” that will better prepare students for the SAT.

“Now, we can make our SATs look like the Ivy League by cutting out the bottom third of the kids who take the test, but we don’t want to do that,” Morgan said. “So I think my challenge to principals, Dr. Slayman and the folks who work with secondary education is, what are we doing with guidance and the kids who are coming into the ninth grade to make sure they’re in the right classes, in addition to the prep classes ... I think that’s the challenge.”

Carter said KCSD increased its state ACT ranking, rising from 18 in 2010 to 13 in 2011.

“Our composite score was 20.2 and the state’s was 20.1. The national composite score was 21.1,” he said. “Our average composite score rose two-tenths of a point in the district from the previous year ... we did have 47 percent of the district’s seniors tested, compared with 45 percent of the district’s seniors last year.”

Morgan said the ACT has become more nationally acceptable during the past decade, and that in South Carolina it makes “really good sense for kids to take the ACT because of content curriculum that we have here.”

“I believe we should be moving more kids towards the ACT. It’s accepted just like the SAT is and it’s more curriculum-based,” he said. “South Carolina, which has the strongest set of curriculum standards as there are in this country -- kids are going to do well on the ACT.”

In other news, the board approved a set of instructional, operational and finance goals -- all of which Morgan told trustees could be used as the basis of its self-evaluation and superintendent evaluation.

Included in the list of goals are developing a five-year plan to increase the use of online textbooks at the high school level; develop a three-year strategy to increase the district’s fund balance to a recommended level of approximately $10-15 million; utilizing a student interest survey to develop budget initiatives to increase athletic opportunities; and working with Kershaw County Council to establish a predictable revenue agreement for budget planning. The full list of goals can be found on the school district’s website.

The board also approved waiving the facility but not custodial fees for the Demonfest reunion at Doby’s Mill Elementary School, the Lugoff Optimist Club’s annual play at Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s (MADD) second annual walk at the L-EHS stadium.

Board members also unanimously voted to extend KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson’s contract an additional three years. Wilson’s new contract will end June 30, 2015.


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