Letter About Planning For Growth

I wrote this letter, which was published in today’s Chronicle-Independent.  I believe that planning for growth in Kershaw County is a critical issue….

Now that all the budgets in Kershaw County have been adopted and we’re a year away from the next budget process, there’s merit in thinking about the budget issues facing Kershaw County moving forward.

Growth, whether it be general population growth or school enrollment growth or both, are increasing the demand for services. Kershaw County’s ongoing struggle with funding growth was seen very clearly this year, especially in the areas of public safety and education. The pressures of growth are exacerbated by the state’s failure to fund its obligations for schools and the local government fund and a highly flawed state tax structure. The state is very good at limiting how localities and school districts can raise money while at the same time fobbing off an increasing level of financial responsibility on local governments and school boards.

At one point in time, I thought the state might eventually step up to its legal financial responsibilities to schools and local governments. I don’t necessarily think that any more, although our local legislative delegation has consistently fought very hard to compel the legislature to meet its legal obligations. What is now in place now relative to state funding is probably the new normal. Therefore, making the tough decisions on how to deal with the costs of population and enrollment growth in Kershaw County will be left to local leaders. We need to understand that the long-term problem in Kershaw County won’t be solved by simply shifting costs for areas like school safety from one government entity to the other, which seemed to be the thrust of this year’s short-term fix.

There needs to be a long-term plan. It’s not in the community’s best interests to keep kicking the growth can down the road and relying on duct tape solutions. I am pleased and excited that County Council has publically committed to sitting down in partnership with the School Board to plan for meeting the costs of future growth in the schools. Since schools are a significant part of local finances, this is a great first step. Having a fiscal plan to meet the needs of population and enrollment growth will also make Kershaw County a more attractive economic development prospect, which is certainly consistent with the vision of our County’s leaders.

We need to be thinking long-term.

 

Dr. Frank E. Morgan, Superintendent

Kershaw County School District

 

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