Proposed Budget for 2018-19

Superintendent's Letter presenting the Approved Budget for 2018-19

  • March 27, 2018

    Dr. James Smith, Chairman
    Kershaw County Board of School Trustees
    2029 West DeKalb Street
    Camden, SC 29020

    Dear Dr. Smith, School Board Members, and Citizens of Kershaw County:

    With this document, I present the Proposed 2018-19 Budget for the Kershaw County School District.  The Proposed Budget totals $87,101,960, or a 3.3% increase over the Adopted 2017-18 Budget.  I am also presenting, as I indicated I would, an alternative unbalanced budget that reflects some critical unmet needs that would require additional funding.  The unbalanced version totals $87,611,960, or a 4.4% increase over the Adopted 2017-18 Budget.  I am hopeful that the areas included in the unbalanced version provide a more complete picture of our needs for the community and for political decision-makers.  While the unbalanced version does not encompass all of our needs, it does include the most critical areas that need to be addressed.

    These budget proposals are the result of a thorough process that included meetings with principals, district office staff, teachers, parents, and students.  I am also excited that our School Improvement Councils have been able over the past two months to meet with School Board and County Council members to discuss critical needs in our schools.  Although we have always involved stakeholders in the development of the budget, the level of involvement this year has been particularly noteworthy.  I am further encouraged by the ongoing discussion of a long-term local funding formula based on enrollment and inflation.  Such a formula was once in place, but was abolished by County Council during the economic downturn when the General Assembly eliminated the requirement for local Maintenance of Effort. 

    Critical Considerations for the Budget

    As always, the budget process is about choices.  Unfortunately, because of significant state and local revenue shortfalls that have persisted since the economic downturn, the choices have become increasingly difficult.  While I firmly believe that our District has done an exemplary job of managing and stretching its resources, the “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach that we have had to use over the past nine years is becoming increasingly impractical. 

    Our District faces a number of challenges, mandates, and demands.  These include attracting and retaining teachers and other employees, meeting the needs of a growing and more diverse student population, addressing more rigorous instructional and accountability mandates from the state, addressing the community’s workforce needs, providing increased academic opportunities for our students, and providing a safe and secure student environment as our country mourns yet another school shooting. 

    Unfortunately, all of these needs will require funding that frankly isn’t there at this point in time.  What is being proposed in either budget iteration does not reflect all of what our District needs in order to, in the words of our Mission, “educate all students for success.”

    Budget Assumptions

    Both versions of the Proposed Budget assume a K-12 enrollment of 10,620, or an increase of 75 students. While I am comfortable with this projection, I also understand that it is somewhat volatile given the level of approved development, especially in the West Wateree area.

    Both versions are predicated on state revenue based on the budget adopted by the South Carolina Senate. I am disappointed to say the least that this budget only includes a $60 increase in Base Student Cost. This is disappointing because this leaves Base Student Cost at about $530 below the legal requirement.

    The Proposed Budget is also predicated on no increase in local millage. While the Board can certainly advocate to County Council for an increase for schools and a funding formula for schools, how Council will respond is difficult to predict. Because Council raised taxes for its own budget by 5.1 mills last year, I suspect there would be some reticence, especially in an election year.

    Major Provisions in the Proposed Budget

    The Proposed Budget includes the following major provisions: 

    • A step plus 1% salary increase for teachers.  A step translates into about 1.5%.  (Teacher salaries were frozen for two years in 2009 and 2010.)
    • A step increase plus 1% for all other employees.  (Salaries for non-teachers were also frozen in 2009 and 2010.) 
    • Funding for mandated increases for retirement and health care.
    • Adequate teaching positions to maintain current staffing ratios and meet Special Education mandates.
    • An additional clerical position at both Camden High and Lugoff-Elgin High.
    • An additional ESOL teacher to address the growing second language population.
    • An additional teacher for the Continuous Learning Center to serve a limited number of upper elementary children who need therapeutic services.
    • Placement of retirees at Step 18 on the salary scale.  They are currently on Step 13.

    Unbalanced Version of Proposed Budget

    I am also recommending an unbalanced version of the Proposed Budget that includes some critical needs areas that could not be funded with projected revenue.  I would recommend that once the Board adopts a balanced budget, it identifies areas for the unbalanced version to present to County Council in terms of a possible request for additional funding. 

    The additional areas recommended in the unbalanced version of the Proposed Budget include: 

    • An additional teaching position at ATEC to expand Engineering courses in order to support development of a “trained and ready” local workforce. 
    • 15 assistant positions for elementary and middle schools to provide math remediation.  This was a major need identified by principals during budget planning discussions.  This initiative would also support the District’s long-term emphasis on STEM in support of local workforce development, which is a major area of emphasis for County Council. 

    The additional cost of these two initiatives is $510,000, based on approximately $60,000 for the ATEC teacher and approximately $450,000 for the assistants.

    Unmet Needs

    Neither version of the budget reflects some other longstanding instructional and other needs, including:

    • District level curriculum support positions for math, science, and social studies. 
    • Positions to increase offerings at all three high schools, particularly in the areas of the arts, foreign language, and advanced academic areas. 
    • Positions to lower class sizes at the elementary and middle school levels.
    • Additional mental/behavioral health professionals to provide services in the schools.  (This area is under discussion by the Ad Hoc Committee.)
    • Additional School Resource Officers.  (This area is also under discussion by the Ad Hoc Committee.)

    Community Meetings

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

    • Tuesday, April 17 at Lugoff-Elgin High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 7:00 p.m.)
    • Wednesday, April 18 at Camden High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 7:00 p.m.)
    • Wednesday, April 25 at North Central High School (Staff at 3:30 p.m./Public at 7:00 p.m.)

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

    Conclusion

    I feel very comfortable in saying that the District has been and continues to be an exemplary steward of taxpayer funding.  We have continued to attain strong academic results in spite of the economic challenges we have had to face.  In this document, I have tried to lay out the major needs of the District, which I hope will generate productive discussion by citizens and leaders of our community.

    I look forward to working with the Board on the budget in the spirit of providing the best possible education for the students of Kershaw County.  They deserve nothing less.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Frank E. Morgan

    Superintendent