Tuesday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees included a discussion of the preliminary FY 2014-15 budget. Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendant Dr. Frank Morgan presented board members with a document that stated “the Preliminary Budget totals $73,098.385, or a 3.1 percent increase as compared to the Amended Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget. However, as was explained to the board at its April 1 meeting, about $1.5 million of this increase simply reflects the movement of monies related to areas such as gifted and at-risk education from categorical funding to the General Fund versus an actual increase.”
Morgan said the budget was based on “the best available information at this point in time” and that its assumptions were “conservative.” The budget presented was based on the adopted S.C. House of Representatives budget as its basis for state revenue projections, Morgan explained.
The following are factors and assumptions impacting the preliminary budget:
• Governor Haley made a number of proposals for K-12 education, but the actual impact of the House budget is only about a $19 increase in Base Student Cost, which still lags at almost more than $600 below the legal requirement. In Kershaw County, this amounts to more than $5 million in lost revenue (revenue that would enable the district to restore many of the cuts made during the economic downturn.)
• The preliminary budget assumes no increase in local funding. Morgan said he recommends the board continue to work with Kershaw County Council on restoring a predictable formula to determine local funding.
• The preliminary budget is predicated on an enrollment of 10,336 students, an increase of 40 over the actual 2013-14 school year enrollment.
Morgan then discussed budget priorities. “These are the major ones,” he said. They were:
• teacher staffing to maintain class size and programs;
• step increase of equivalent for all employees to offset increases in benefit costs and maintain competitiveness;
• materials, supplies and library books; and
• deferred maintenance needs.
Morgan said the S.C. Senate hasn’t yet finished its budget.
“I would like to think we’ll get some additional funding from the Senate,” he said, adding that he hoped the Senate would fund the step increase because the House did not plan to fund it.
Due to revenue limitations, Morgan said, he was not able to recommend positions to lower class size, restore programs or provide other salary or line item increases. He stated that if a local millage increase was to be approved or additional state funds became available, he would strongly recommend that these funds be used to fund teaching positions, to improve extracurricular and other stipends, and to provide support for arts programs. He also recommended that $500,000 of the fund balance be used to continue to address deferred maintenance with particular emphasis on areas that are not included in the Phase 2 referendum proposal.
“This budget does not meet all the needs of the district; it does not,” Morgan said. “What we tried to do is hit the ones that are most critical … my two biggest priorities are to keep teachers in front of kids and try to make enough of a salary adjustment so that people don’t go backwards.”
Finally, Morgan mentioned that budget meetings would be held for staff and the community to discuss and react to the preliminary budget. Staff will attend the meetings at 3:30 p.m. and the public at 6:30 p.m. on the following dates: May 5 at North Central High School, May 7 at Lugoff-Elgin High School and May 12 at Camden High School.
As part of Phase 2 discussions, KCSD Executive Director for Operations Billy Smith clarified rumors about Zemp Stadium.
“We’re not talking about closing Zemp Stadium,” he said.
“That’s not what the public understands,” Trustee Louis Clyburn said. “You’ve got me totally confused. We’ve been talking about building a new football stadium -- for games -- but you’re telling me now they don’t have to leave Zemp Stadium, that they’re going to play there?”
“We’ve never told people we were going to close Zemp Stadium,” Smith replied.
“That’s not what the people of Camden understand,” Clyburn said. “They understand we are closing Zemp Stadium.”
Smith reiterated that closing Zemp Stadium was never something told to the public. He and Morgan had previously met with the community, and several residents expressed a desire to maintain Zemp Stadium for home football games.
“That was a make or break issue for some in the community,” Morgan said. “The opportunity to get this (Ehrenclou) site built out for the long term … this would be for more than practice.”
He said that the new facility could operate as a location for invitational high school track meets, home soccer games and junior varsity football games and practices.
Morgan noted that the next two board meetings will serve as public hearings where the board will hear further community input about Phase 2 options.