School District One budget may take a hit

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The Anderson School District One Board recognized two District One employees who are being recognized on the State level, heard from a State School Board representative, heard a budget update and a building program update during their meeting Tuesday.
The Board recognized Wren High Librarian Tamara Cox, who is a finalist for State Teacher of the Year and Wren Middle Coach Jimmy Brown, who was recently named the State Middle School Coach of the Year.
Cox was named District One Teacher of the Year and recently among ten winners on the national level of the prestigious “I Love My Librarian Award”, awarded by the American Library Association.
Brown has thirty-two years as a Middle School Coach in District One and has coached 52 teams.
Brown said it has been a privilege to serve the community and the special relationship he has with the kids, the parents and the community.
South Carolina School Board Association (SCSBA) Region 11 Director Tim Rhodes spoke to the board. Rhodes, who also serves on the Abbeville School Board, said the reason he was serving on the school board was to help “get kids in our state the best education we can offer them.” Region 11 includes nine school districts in Anderson, Saluda, Edgefield, McCormick, Abbeville and Greenwood. Rhodes told the board that if they ever needed or wanted training or had other concerns, to contact him.
The Board also heard a song presentation by students at Cedar Grove Elementary who are participating in a junior production of Aladdin this week. The two lead characters sang “A Whole New World”. The production, which is open to the public, will be held this Thursday and Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. at Palmetto Middle School Auditorium.
Finance Director Travis Thomas reported that the Local Option Sales Tax for November and December had come in February. For Anderson County, the total amounted to $4,634,749. District One’s share, at just over 31 percent, is $1,454,021. Twenty percent, or $290,804 will go toward property tax relief and the rest, $1,163,217 will go toward capital projects building fund.
Approximately $4 million is expected to be collected each year for AD1 by the one cent sales tax which will go to the building fund account, for a total of $20 million over the next five years, Thomas said.
Superintendent Robbie Binnicker updated the board members on the budget, which he said is “terrible news.”
District One could see a net budget shortfall of $3.5 million if the state budget presented by the House is approved with no changes in funding. The state budget will go to the Senate for their version before being approved.
Binnicker said the House Ways and Means budget being presented on the state level will result in additional salary and fringe benefit costs which will have to be covered by the District.
He said District One will receive $1.6 million from the state to help with a mandatory four percent salary increase. The funding provided by the House is based on the minimum salary plus four percent, however District One pay scales are twelve percent above the state minimum and there is a mandatory step increase. The four percent increase for District One will result in an increase of $1,135,183, however due to the twelve percent above minimum which District One pays plus the four percent, the actual expense to District One will amount to$2.2 million.
“We have to be incredibly competitive (in salaries) due to our neighbors,” Binnicker said. “We are keeping our salary competitive with surrounding districts.”
Binnicker said a mandatory fringe increase of at least one percent will cost the District an additional $470,000.
Based on the funding formula used by the state, “Fast growing districts get the short end of the stick and are hurt significantly more,” Binnicker said. “Hopefully the Senate will resolve the situation. If not, we are in a world of hurt.”
Binnicker said the current draft budget will see a total net increase of $4.6 million. With the increase of just over $1.1 million, District One will see a net shortfall of $3.5 million in the draft budget.
“We are cautiously optimistic the Senate will come through for us,” Binnicker said. “I think when we get the Senate plan, we will have a better plan to look at. It has been a big surprise to many of us when this House budget passed.”
The board gave their consensus for a new Economics of Sports elective course to be offered at Powdersville High.
The course will study the various financial impacts of American and International sports.
In the nutrition services report, Assistant Superintendent for Administration, Dr. Kelly Pew reported that District One had been awarded a National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance Subgrant of $21,375 which will be used for electrical upgrades, new refrigeration and warmers at Cedar Grove Elementary. The program also sold old equipment for $13,926 she said.
Dr. Pew said District One plans to offer a summer food program at Wren Elementary and Palmetto Elementary and will be adding one at Cedar Grove Elementary.
Mr. Binnicker updated the board on the status of the building program. Binnicker said bids for site packages for the two new middle schools were due Tuesday and a bid with a guaranteed maximum price will be announced April 9.Construction bids are expected by be available May 23.
Binnicker said the building program depends on the outcome of the bond referendum April 30.
He said the community meetings have been “going really well”. The proposed program will be presented at upcoming open houses at Spearman Elementary and Powdersville Elementary, Binnicker said.
Board Chair Nancy Upton said she heard a lot of good comments from people who attended the presentation held at Powdersville High recently.
Binnicker said videos and information being presented on social media have reached over 37,000. Binnicker also said The Journal had been very helpful in getting the word out.
Anderson School District One is asking voters to approve a $109 million bond referendum to help fund a proposed building program that is estimated to cost $132 million. The new building program will include construction of two new middle schools, classroom additions for schools that are at or over capacity, critical renovations at schools that need them and improve safety at all fourteen District schools, District One officials say. The bond referendum will be held on April 30 of this year.