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Letter: Use KH FILOT funds for school safety

Posted: September 6, 2018 4:08 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2018 1:00 a.m.

With the start of a new school year, the topic of school safety has again come to the forefront in our community, in our state and across the nation.

Last year, an ad hoc committee, a group comprised of a diverse cross-section of our community, spent a great deal of time developing comprehensive recommendations concerning school safety, including possible funding mechanisms. These recommendations were ultimately presented to county council. It is disappointing that council has never fully considered this thoughtful work, especially given that council asked the committee to develop the recommendations in the first place.

Given that funding is and always will be an issue, I would like to make what I hope is a constructive suggestion. Normally, the school district receives about two-thirds of revenue coming from Fee in Lieu of Taxes (FILOT) agreements with local industries. The district has certainly had to pay for two-thirds of the refund involved when any of these agreements have had to be renegotiated. Such refunds have resulted in the district losing more than $1.5 million over the past 10 years. That’s a lot of teachers and school resource officers, to be sure.

However, when the FILOT with the reorganized KershawHealth was developed a couple of years ago, the district did not receive its normal share, which amounts to about $660,000 per year. Council instead used these funds to balance its own budget. It is disappointing, even troubling, that the school district did not find out about this until accounting regulations changed and this arrangement had to be reported to the district. During a presentation I made to council last spring, it was stated by Chairman Julian Burns that the deal with Kershaw Health was not a FILOT. However, members of the county staff have told me that it was. Either way, it’s a bunch of money that the school district didn’t get at the same time council was asking the district to fund more school resource officers.

All this said, I would respectfully suggest that council consider repurposing what would have been the district’s share of the Kershaw Health FILOT for the safety needs outlined in the ad hoc committee report. It seems only fair and reasonable. I believe parents, especially, will agree when they understand what happened to these funds in the first place.

I certainly understand and support council’s interest in developing a recreation area on the Wateree River. I would hope that council would be equally focused on the safety of our schools and our children.

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