All smiles: School board approves budget – finally
by The Press and Standard | October 4, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 3, 2018 at 9:48 am
Colleton County School District Finance Director Emily Temple was all smiles at the end of the Sept. 25 special school board meeting.
Board members had just approved the 2018-2019 General Fund budget, bringing to a close the long path to passage of the fiscal document that provides the funding for the day-to-day operations of the school district.
“It is balanced, it includes the revenues from the three mills we requested from county council, it includes an addition in state revenue of $688,000,” Temple told the school board members gathered in the conference room of the school district offices.
The 2018-2019 General Fund budget totals $44,652,661, a $1,203,795 increase over the previous fiscal year budget.
Starting her report, Temple said, “What I want to focus on is what all we are doing, the items included in this budget.” (See companion article that highlights some of the new initiatives fueled by the General Fund.)
Board member Harry Jenkins asked Temple to explain the reasoning behind the reductions of the instructional supply requests for Forest Hills Elementary School, Colleton County Middle School and Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center.
The instruction supply request for Forest Hills dropped from $45,000 in the previous fiscal year to $40,000 for the new fiscal year. Temple said the decrease was attributed to a decrease in enrollment at that school.
The drop from $100,000 to $90,000 for the middle school, she explained, reflects the fact that the cost of providing transportation to away contests for middle school teams was moved to the Office of Athletics.
Success in securing grant money, Temple said, led school administrators to decrease the instructional supply request for Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center from $90,000 in the last fiscal year to $65,000 in this fiscal year. TCTC, she explained, has continually been receiving a $25,000 grant that covers the costs of enrollment in the center’s machine tool program. The TCTC administration, she added, is also receiving some state funding for industrial certifications.
After the board’s approval of the budget, Board Chairman Charles Murdaugh told Temple, “Thank you for your work. Some of the people in this budget are going to be happy and I am happy for them.”
The 2018-2019 fiscal year began on July 1, and the state traditionally wants the fiscal year budget approved and in place by June 30.
There wasn’t a school district in the state that met that goal this year; uncertainty in the funding that would be provided by the state slowed the budgetary process.
The state’s budget was not finalized by the legislature until late June, making it difficult for school districts and county governments to put the finishing touches on their budgets and get them to school boards and county councils for their review and approval.
Both the local school board and Colleton County Council voted to enact provisional budgets to begin the new fiscal year. The provisional budget allowed the governmental institutions to continue paying their bills, but limited spending to the levels contained in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The school district’s problem with getting a new fiscal year budget in place was compounded by the delay in getting the county’s budget approved.
The school district was asking for a tax increase to fund operations for the next school year: a raise in the property tax.
County council could approve or deny the request; their decision on the school district’s request was contained in the county’s budget ordinance.
County Council approved their budget ordinance at the Aug. 14 session and approved the school district’s request for a property tax hike.
In the school district’s first proposed budget (built based on projections of the state’s level of funding) the school board requested county council’s general operating tax hike of four-and-four-tenths mills.
When the state’s final budget was approved, it contained some good news for the school district. Legislators approved a state budget that provides $688,000 in additional state funding. The district would receive $29,278,380 in state funds in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
That additional funding allowed the school district to alter its request for a local millage hike from four-and-four-tenths mills down to three mills.
With the county government signed off on the district’s request for a millage increase for general operations, Temple could now finalize the General Fund budget and then run the required legal ads to set a public hearing on the proposed budget.
The public hearing and passage of the General Fund budget was held at the school board’s Sept. 18 meeting.
Hurricane Florence then threw the next snag into the effort to get the budget in place. The school district shut down the schools and central office from Sept. 11-14, so the budget would not be ready for a school board vote on Sept. 18.
The public hearing on the budget was held because it had been advertised, and cancelling the public hearing would have further delayed taking action on the budget into October.
That resulted in calling the Sept. 25 special meeting.