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Charleston Co. Schools prepare options for potential $36M budget shortfall

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 3:13 PM EDT|Updated: May. 2, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is preparing for the possibility that they may need to cover a budget shortfall of $35.7 million to cover the basic required increases without a tax increase.

At the April 25 school board meeting, Interim Superintendent Don Kennedy presented three scenarios to address the budgetary gap based on the budget passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives.

All three options would have the district cutting non-salary costs by $4 million and freezing hiring to save $3 million.

The first option would not increase taxes – or millage- and calls for a $4.4 million restructuring of the central office, $5.7 million in one-time fund balance money and $18.5 million in “additional cuts.”

Kennedy says the fund balance money to be used in next year’s budget is the unused amount of fund balance allocated for this year’s budget and will not impact the overall projection for where the fund should be.

Another option would increase millage by 6.3 mills and look identical to the first scenario only with $1.7 million in “additional cuts” instead of $18.5 million. This option would also cover additional expenses.

The final option presented to the board would raise millage to its max of 9.1 mills. This scenario allows the district to not have to restructure the central office or find additional cuts. However, it would still require about $700,000 of fund balance money.

Kennedy says he will likely suggest the 6.3 mills option, as it is the only one that includes all of the required increases but also includes a number of district priorities. Those priorities include raising the teacher step cap from 26 to 30 years, increasing non-teacher step, and increasing minimum wage to $17 an hour.

In this plan, the district projects an increase to expenses of $41.2 million and only $22.4 million in additional revenue. The $18 million gap would be filled as described earlier.

Of the $41.2 million, $30.8 million come from required increases and unfunded or partially funded state mandates. For example, CCSD would have to pick up a $9.5 million expense to increase teacher salaries by $2,000 and another $4.5 million for teacher step increases.

The proposed millage increase does represent a tax hike, however for homeowners who also live in their home, the increase is zero. Those with non-owner-occupied homes, a 6.3 mills increase would see taxes jump $37.80 for every $100,000 in assessed value. Commercial properties would have an additional $189 per $500,000 of assessed value. There would also be small increases for cars and personal property.

The district has not yet publicly presented any options for the budget passed by the Senate last Thursday. However, the district is meeting tomorrow for an audit and finance meeting where more details are expected.

The house and senate are expected to meet to discusses the two proposed budgets and settle on one bill to send to the governor.

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