Lowcountry School Districts stockpile cash, demand more public money


Monday, FITSNews broke the story of public school districts in South Carolina stockpiling their end-of-the-year budget funds.

The money, averaging $1,000.00 per student throughout the 85 public school districts, is more than double the sum of all cuts to state education spending (so far adding up to $400 per child).

This week we’ve looked at some of the double talk from district superintendents, school board members and state legislators. On one hand the districts had an average of $8 million dollars on hand in the form of “surpluses” at the end of 2007; but rather than tap that cache of public money they are lobbying for tax hikes and bond referendums.

Some of the most extreme fiscal double talk has occurred in Anderson and other Upstate Districts. Now we look at Charleston and the public schools districts in the Lowcounty that surround it:

Georgetown: $8.7 million in 2007 General Fund surplus

Georgetown County School Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier told the Georgetown Times (12/4) “the district would not be in the financial predicament it is in if the state would allow more flexibility in how the money is spent… The district’s budget shortfall stands at about $1.5 million as a result of state budget cuts implemented last month. Dozier is hoping the General Assembly will make school district budgets a high priority when they reconvene in January.”

Beaufort: $13.2 million in 2007 General Fund surplus

In the Beaufort Gazette (1/6) education board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. said flexibility in spending state money is key to weathering the budget cuts. Much of the state money school districts receive is earmarked for specific purposes. “We need to have the option of moving things where they are needed most,” Washington said. In mid-December (1/15) The Gazette interviewed the Superintendent: “Valerie Truesdale said the district has not yet discussed its budget for the coming fiscal year but will consider the merits of every program, including National Board Certification.” “These are deep cuts,” she said. “When you’re cutting this deep, you’re into serious analysis of every single thing you do.”

Berkeley: $13.6 million in 2007 General Fund surplus

Reacting to state budget cuts and the spending flexibility reforms designed to soften the blow, Brantley Thomas, executive director of finance for Berkeley County schools, said “officials would be able to decide where they wanted to spend state money, but programs and schools would suffer.” (Post and Courier 1/7).

Charleston: $19.6 million in 2007 General Fund surplus

In addition to plans for closing at least two elementary schools (KVBC 1/12) and possibly selling the school board building (WCSC 1/13) School officials are looking to “ask the state for help” (WCBD 1/13). The Charleston Post and Courier further reports (1/13): “This year, the district plans to use [only] $7 million from its contingency fund as well as consider a list of other money-saving options, such as a mandatory four-day furlough for administrators during spring break, a hiring freeze on non-school-based staff vacancies and, if the state allows it, a two-day furlough for teachers before the end of the school year. The board also unanimously approved a resolution to urge state lawmakers to give districts flexibility on using restricted state money this year to help balance their budgets.”

“Lobbying state lawmakers?!” “Deep cuts?!” “Suffering programs?” “Forced teacher furloughs?”

To put all this in context: The year began with an average of $11,480 in combined local, state and federal spending on each public school student. Now the state has cut it’s contribution by $400 per student, but rather than fully tap the $1,000 per student stockpile of “district savings” local educrats want state taxpayers to bail them out!


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