School Board Bickers Over Budget

WINNSBORO – Although discussions at the May 20 School Board meeting revealed that some confusion existed regarding the difference between the District’s general fund budget and debt service millage, the Board voted 4-2 to approve second reading of the 2014-2015 budget. Board members Annie McDaniel (District 4) and Paula Hartman (District 2) voted against the measure. Board member Andrea Harrison (District 1) was absent.

Kevin Robinson, Finance Director, said there had been no changes to the $35,548,651 budget since first reading, and that the budget included a millage rate of 203.1 mills, which reflected no change from last year’s millage rate. When questioned by Hartman about the District’s debt service millage, Robinson said the final figures were not yet available. However, he added, he expects the debt service millage to be the same, or close to, last year’s rate of 32 mills.

McDaniel said she was “concerned” that the Board was going into second reading of the budget without knowing the debt service figure, but J.R. Green, Superintendent, said that debt service millage doesn’t have any impact on the operational budget. Until County Council sets the value of the mill, Green said, the District would not know for sure what the debt service millage will be.

“We anticipated (last year) that the debt service millage would have been 35 mills,” Green said, “but because the set value (of a mill) was higher than we anticipated, it was actually 32 mills. So we can’t necessarily tell you the millage because we don’t necessarily know what those assessed values are.”

McDaniel said the County Auditor should have given the District a figure for the District to use in calculating its budget, but Robinson said the debt service value of a mill is different from the operational values.

“We don’t issue millage on residential property,” Robinson said, “so there are two different numbers that we’re dealing with.”

McDaniel asked Robinson what the deadline was for the District to present its budget to County Council for approval. Robinson said the date for Council to receive the operational budget was June 15, but added that there was no set date for the debt service.

“You’re telling me they operate on different dates, for debt service and operational?” McDaniel, a Board member since 2000, asked.

“That’s correct,” Robinson said. “We’ve always in the past historically given the County a number for debt millage around August, early September. We’ve never given them a debt millage number in June. The number they have to have in June is for operational.”

“So we’ve been giving them a figure for debt service and the Board has not been approving it?” McDaniel asked.

“The Board has always approved it,” Robinson said. “I’m just saying it’s never been given to them in June.”

When Chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) noted that the discussion had strayed from the general fund budget and into debt service, which was not on the agenda, she called for the vote.

“When are we as a board going to finish discussing the budget?” McDaniel asked. “We just had second reading and we had no work session.”

Reid said the Board held a work session on April 22, but McDaniel indicated that additional sessions may be necessary.

“We don’t need more,” Reid said. “We don’t need it. Nothing has changed. There’s nothing else to talk about.”

McDaniel said that Board members with additional questions should be allowed to ask those questions, and Reid asked McDaniel if she had submitted any questions via email to the Chairwoman.

“Have you requested that I send you those questions?” McDaniel asked Reid.

“I did,” Reid answered. “The last time, I said anything needs to come through me in an email. I haven’t gotten any emails.”

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