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County Council hears school district budget update

Posted: May 14, 2018 4:44 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council heard a presentation regarding the Kershaw County School District’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget during its May 8 meeting.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the $87.1 budget is currently based on S.C. Senate numbers and currently does not call for a tax increase.

“This can handle our basic needs, although we are still waiting to see what the legislature will finally do,” Morgan noted.

Nonetheless, due to a number of pressing issues, including enrolment growth and safety, the district does want to ask council to consider approving a 5.4 mill increase to the district’s budget, which comes up to about $566,000 in additional funding, Morgan said.

“This will move us closer to being on track as a vital part of successfully reaching the goals of Kershaw County Vision 2030,” he said.

If granted, the funding would be used as follows:

• $95,000 would pay for a mental health services coordinator, which is a position being recommended by the ad hoc committee to coordinate mental health services in the schools currently being provided by multiple entities.

• $310,000 would fund the existing mental health workers, which are currently funded by a state revenue stream earmarked for at-risk students.

•  $70,000 would fund an engineering teaching position at ATEC.

• $90,000 would be used to support yearly consumable purchases required for STEM education in upper elementary and middle schools.

Morgan noted that most of the district’s budget is spent on personnel. More specifically, some 83 percent of the district’s money goes to people who work in schools.

“Seventeen percent are fixed costs – insurance and utilities for example,” he said.  “The rest are people who are working in or are directly involved with schools.”

The district has worked hard to cut costs where possible, Morgan said. All capital projects being funded by the bond referendum have been on time and under budget. The district received a very good interest rate on the bond itself, thanks to a very high credit rating earned through sound financial management. And the district has been able to save in other areas; it saved $2 million by outsourcing custodial services, for example.

However, that does not mean a windfall for the district, nor can all positions be outsourced.

One major challenge is the ability to retain key personnel. Teachers are much more difficult to hire, not only because other districts within the state pay significantly better, but because neighboring states also pay significantly better, he said.

In answer to a question from Councilman Sammy Tucker Jr. about the possibility of leaving some IT positions as contract positions rather than converting them to full time district positions, Morgan noted that KCSD is at risk of losing key people to other districts.

“It’s really a wash, in this case,” he said. “We are still paying the contracting agency to provide those positions benefits, which may or may not be as good. People will go to positions that offer better compensation packages. We just don’t feel like it’s healthy for us as a district or a community to essentially train people for other districts.”

In fact, Morgan noted later, Kershaw County has actually hired two IT contractors away from the district to become full time county IT employees.

South Carolina public schools are subject to more rigorous standards and accountability than many other states. For example, the English as second language student population is rapidly increasing, which strains the district’s ability to serve those students. Yet, South Carolina public schools are required to have ESOL students reading and writing English, on grade level, in one year.

Special needs populations are increasing as well, including here in Kershaw County, and many of those students require unique – and often expensive -- services.

Councilman Jimmy Jones thanked Morgan, noting that he believed Morgan and the district have done a great job working with limited resources.

“As far as the SRO issue goes, I don’t believe they need to be in your budget at all,” Jones said, referring to school resource officers and the attendant security issues that have increased in recent times.

Council Chairman Julian Burns asked if Morgan’s millage increase/budget request came in the form of a codified motion from the school board. Morgan replied that this had not yet been voted on officially, but he could inform the board of council’s desire that they codify the request.

Other business discussed:

• Council heard an update on the Summer Reading program partnership between the Kershaw County Recreation Department and KCSD.

• Council postponed discussion of resolutions regarding a fee-in-lieu-of taxes agreement between Kershaw County and Haier US Appliance Solutions at the request of Haier, which is still in the process of completing legal work for changing its name from Haier America Holding Corp.

• Council passed resolutions approving an agreement regarding road and parking infrastructure at Central Carolina technical College and approving an agreement with CCTC regarding usage and maintenance of facilities at the campus.

Kershaw County Council meets again at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22 in the County Government Center, 515 Walnut St., Camden. Meetings are open to the public.

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