Budget Letter To School Board

Following is the budget letter I presented to the School Board on Tuesday evening:

Dear Ms. Jones, Members of the Board of School Trustees, and Citizens of Kershaw County:

With this document I present the Preliminary General Fund Budget for the Kershaw County School District for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. As presented, the Preliminary Budget totals $73,098.385, or a 3.1% 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.

In developing a Preliminary Budget, principals and other staff have provided significant input and consultation. The information gained through a budget survey done in 2012 year is still extremely valid.   Further, I have used feedback from discussions throughout the year with employees, parents, students, community members, and countless others to develop my recommendations. I believe that the budget I am presenting strongly reflects these efforts to seek and utilize meaningful input.

The revenue assumptions in this budget are based on the best available information at this point in time. Obviously, these assumptions are conservative. Appropriate adjustments can be considered as new information is received, especially related to the budget deliberations at the General Assembly and discussions the Board will be having in the near future with County Council. For the moment, the adopted House budget is the basis for state revenue projections.

Factors and Assumptions Impacting the Preliminary Budget

Governor Haley made a number of proposals for K-12 education that were included in the House budget. While the emphasis on education is certainly welcome as compared to the past several years, the actual impact of the House budget is only about a $19 increase in Base Student Cost, which still lags almost over $600 below the legal requirement. In Kershaw County, this amounts to over $5 million in lost revenue, revenue that would enable us to restore many of the cuts made during the economic downturn. The House budget also includes an unfunded mandate for teacher step increases.

The Preliminary Budget assumes no increase in local funding. I would recommend that the Board continue to work with County Council on restoring a predictable formula for determining local funding. Such a formula existed prior to the economic downturn. As has been the case for several years, the House budget includes a proviso that suspends the legal requirement for minimum local effort.

The Preliminary Budget is predicated on an enrollment of 10,336 students, an increase of 40 over the actual 2013-14 school year enrollment. I would note that enrollment in the current year did exceed projection by approximately 100 students. However, I always believe it is prudent to utilize conservative enrollment projections.

Budget Priorities

                There are numerous priorities in our district that need to be met, especially because of the deep cuts made during the economic downturn. Unfortunately, available revenue does not come close to supporting all of the critical priorities. Based on discussions with the Board, staff, parents, and community members, the following areas have emerged as the highest priority areas:

    • Teacher staffing to maintain class size and programs
    • Step increase or equivalent for all employees to offset increases in benefits costs and maintain competitiveness
    • Materials, supplies, and library books
    • Deferred maintenance needs

Because of revenue limitations, I am not able to recommend positions to lower class size or restore programs or provide other salary or line item increases. If a local millage increase was to be approved or additional state funds became available, I 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.

I am again recommending that $500,000 of 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.

While I had hope in December that the picture would be brighter, I would have to characterize the Preliminary Budget as simply maintaining our current level of reduced effort. While I cannot say that this budget meets all of the District’s critical needs, it does address what I see as the most pressing ones. It is an understatement to say that we are still playing “catch-up” because of the $30+ million in cuts that had to be made during the economic downturn. At the end of the process, however, the Board must approve a spending plan that is balanced to projected revenues. 

Major Recommendations in the Preliminary Budget

 The Preliminary Budget includes the following major recommendations:

  • A step increase (about 1.5%) or equivalent for all employees, which will help offset increases in employee contributions to retirement and health insurance.
  • 5 teaching positions to maintain class size and adjust to enrollment shifts.
  • Increases in employer-paid benefit costs for retirement and health insurance.
  • Additional funding for library materials and supplies and for travel to reflect the required increase in mileage reimbursement.
  • Funding for a grant writer/grant manager, which would be paid for from the General Fund and Special Revenue. Part of the compensation for this position would also come through commission from grants received.
  • Funding for a varsity girls soccer team at North Central High School.

Budget Meetings

The following meetings have been scheduled for staff and the community to discuss and react to the Preliminary Budget:

  • Monday, May 5 at North Central High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, May 7 at Lugoff-Elgin High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Monday, May 12 at Camden High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 6:30 p.m.)

Feedback from these meetings will be presented to the Board to consider as it finalizes its budget.

Conclusion

I am extremely proud of the way in which our district has managed the significant challenges presented by the economic downturn. While I am certainly heartened by the fact that it is no longer necessary to be discussing budget cuts, the needs of the District far exceed the additional revenue available.

I look forward to working with the Board in the coming weeks to adopt a budget that best utilizes our resources for the benefit of the students in Kershaw County.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Frank E. Morgan

Superintendent

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: