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New school = bigger budget

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Harrisburg Elementary to add about $1.2 million to budget

By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County School District officials prepared school board members for an expected increase in the 2014-15 general fund due to the August opening of the new Harrisburg Elementary School.

The news came during the school board’s monthly meeting Feb. 18, in which Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore also updated board members about the status of snow makeup days.

In a preliminary budget briefing for school board members, Tony Walker, the district’s chief financial officer, said the school opening is expected to cost the district an additional $1,230,783 for operating costs.

That estimate includes $920,554 in salaries and fringe benefits for at least 16 new positions, along with $145,663 for utilities, $109,453 for cleaning, $31,378 for property insurance and fire district fees and $17,735 in school allocations.

Moore, like Walker, reminded school board members those figures were only preliminary, but said such costs were to be expected.

“A lot of folks don’t realize that when you open a new school, you don’t just go split the old school, you’ve got to have principals, assistant principals, teachers and media folk,” Moore said. “It doesn’t just happen. There certainly will be additional costs up there.”

The briefing signals the start of the school board’s 2014-15 budgeting process, which ends in June.

At this point in the process, Walker estimated a $2.4 million decrease in local general fund revenues to be offset by an estimated $1.4 million increase in state revenues for a revenue shortfall of $1.02 million.

Including the new Harrisburg Elementary School expenditures, Walker is estimating a total general fund increase of $3.9 million and a $2.1 million net deficit.

Walker said such a projected deficit is not nearly as bad as in past years.

He also reminded school board members that budget figures are far from set, since the S.C. General Assembly is still working on consolidating the state House, Senate and Governor’s budgets and the figures will likely improve.

“It is very early in the budget process; these are very early numbers. Hopefully, these are the scariest numbers you’ll see during the process,” Walker said.

“Yeah, this is where you scare us every year,” said Bobby Parker, school board chairman.

Snow makeup days

During his monthly legislative update, Moore reminded school board members that county students have missed five total snow days this year due to winter storms, but, as of now, are still required to complete a 180-day school year.

County students made up one day Feb. 17. Another makeup day is set for Monday, March 17, and the first three days of spring break, April 14, 15 and 16.

Moore said the S.C. House of Representatives passed a bill that allows forgiveness of up to five snow makeup days.

However, the House bill would still make each county school district use their calendar’s three built-in makeup days as required by law.

“It still hasn’t been approved by the Senate yet,” Moore said. “If the House and Senate pass it, and the governor signs off on it, then it will be up to you as a board.”

Trustees Awards

School board members honored several students and one community member with Trustees Awards this month:

– McDonald Green Elementary students Feride Ertural and Ashton Neal for their first-place wins at the 2014 National Junior Beta Club Convention’s Arts and Crafts Competition. Feride won first place in the watercolor contest and Ashton won first place in the photography contest.

– Buford High School senior Hope Jewett for winning the 2014 Harris Leadership Award for outstanding student leaders at the South Carolina Beta Club Convention. Jewett is one of only 25 Beta Club members in the nation, out of 450,000, to win the award. She is the only South Carolina student to win the award this year and the first for Buford High School.

– S.C. School Board Association board president Beth Branham presented Robert Burns of Burn’s Ford Mercury the SCSBA Champions for Public Education Award. Burns and his company have supported local schools, students and teachers with donations, financial support and guidance for several years. For the past two years, Burns has provided free use of a new car for the winner of the District Celebrate Great Teaching award.

– School board members honored 2013-14 South Carolina Junior Scholars from A.R. Rucker and Andrew Jackson Middle schools.

A.R. Rucker Middle School scholars are: Hallie Caroway, Thomas Holland, Laurel Howard, Harrison Latham, Puja Patel, Katelyn Prete and Matthew Rivers.

Andrew Jackson Middle School scholars are: Hanna Adams, Tucker Adams, Lynleigh Betchan, Riley Blackmon, Natalie Bowers, Makayla Branham, Morgan Eason, Rachel Greene-Phillips, Alaina Houghtaling, Amber Mungo and Savanna Small.

 

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151