- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Lancaster County school board members unanimously approved the district’s 2012-13 budget Tuesday, June 26, which totals $91.1 million.
The debt services budget includes a 3.5 mill tax increase for county property owners, while the general fund budget’s millage remains the same.
Also during the meeting, school board members named Andrew Jackson Middle School Principal Butch Dutton to replace Jonathan Phipps as principal at Buford High School.
This year’s debt services budget for capital projects totals $15,011,665.
As planned last year, this year’s debt services budget asks for a 3.5-mill tax increase to pay for the construction of a much-needed $14 million elementary school in Indian Land.
The increase, which comes atop a 5 mill debt service tax increase approved last year for the same reason, will raise the current debt service millage from 43.5 to 47 mills.
Lancaster County School District Chief Financial Officer Tony Walker said a 3.51 percent increase in the county’s mill value this year may mean the temporary increase can be reduced even sooner than expected.
“It (debt service millage) should stay that way only for the next six or seven years to pay for the new school,” Walker said. “Next year, we’ll look at it and adjust it, if possible, and we might be able to reduce that some.”
The 3.5 mill increase is estimated to cost county homeowners less than $14 on a $100,000 home.
This year’s general fund budget, which covers salaries and operating expenses, totals $76,109,810, a $5.5 million increase over last year.
The budget includes a $954,973 shortfall to be paid out of the district’s equity, or money left over from last year’s general fund budget.
Total general fund millage will remain the same at 140 mills.
Walker said total revenues for the school district increased by $4.9 million this year, due to low interest rates, increased local revenue and an expected 11.88 percent increase in state funding.
The budget assumes a proposed per-student Base Student Cost of $2,012, a $132 increase over last year, but still far short of the $2,578 BSC before the 2008 economic meltdown.
While revenues increased 7 percent, the district also experienced a 7.49 percent increase in operating expenses this year.
Those expenses included a 1.06 increase in district retirement contributions, a 5 percent increase in employee health insurance, a 3 percent increase in the district’s cleaning costs and utilities and a 20 percent increase in property insurance costs.
The largest portion of this year’s $5.5 million general fund budget increase is the result of a state-mandated 2 percent raise for district personnel and a 1 to 1.5 percent step increase owed to qualified district educators since the district froze raises during the 2009-10 school year.
Casting uncertainty over this year’s school budget, though, is the state Legislature’s failure so far to pass a state budget due to political wrangling between the House and Senate over the amount of a proposed small business tax.
This may force some unwanted delays in the school district’s budget.
“Should this (the state budget) change significantly, we will bring you an adjusted budget in July,” Walker told board members. “We may have to save the salary raises until the Legislature comes through with a budget.
“I don’t think they’re going to take them out (of the state budget), I just think they’re arguing over other things,” he said. “But you wouldn’t want to jump out there and give raises when you don’t know what your revenue is.”
This year’s budget also includes funding for several new teacher positions, as well as additional assistant principal positions at four county schools – Buford Elementary, North Elementary, Indian Land Middle and Andrew Jackson Middle.
School board chairman Bobby Parker said he felt good about this year’s budgets and felt confident the state would get its budget in order with minimum effects on the district’s budget.
Parker said he felt as if the budget reflected a turnaround from the district’s financial woes over the past few years due to the economy.
“I think it’s going to be a good year,” he said. “Better than we’ve had in a long time.”
New Buford High School principal
In addition to a new assistant principal position, district officials will soon be looking for a new principal at Andrew Jackson Middle School since longtime principal Butch Dutton has a new job.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, school board members approved Dutton as their choice to take over the helm at Buford High School.
Dutton will replace former BHS Principal Jonathan Phipps, who is set to join district office staff as the LCSD secondary education director.
A 1978 graduate of Lancaster High School, Dutton began his education career with the district at South Junior High School in 1984 as a science and math teacher and football coach.
He has served as principal at AJMS for 12 years.
“Butch works extremely hard to help students and teachers succeed,” said Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore. “His experience as an administrator, his strength as an instructional leader and his gift for working with people make him a perfect fit for the principalship.
“We look forward to seeing the great things Butch and the Buford High staff accomplish together,” he said.
Dutton holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of South Carolina and earned his master’s degree in administration and supervision from Winthrop University.
Dutton said when he hard the BHS position was available, he immediately began considering it, saying there weren’t many other schools for which he’d consider leaving Andrew Jackson Middle.
He said he saw a “greatness” in both the schools students and staff – and it didn’t hurt that some of his fondest childhood memories were watching his first football game at BHS with his father, the late Ted Dutton, who graduated from the school.
“It just feels right on a lot of levels,” Dutton said. “I’ll miss the students and staff at Andrew Jackson Middle, but I feel fortunate to have the chance to work for the Buford High students, staff and community.”
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151