Board OK’s Budget

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County School Board voted 4-2 on June 12 to give final approval to the 2014-2015 budget of $35,548,351. Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4), who joined the meeting by telephone, and Board member Paula Hartman (District 2) voted against the budget. Board member Andrea Harrison (District 1) was absent.

After the meeting, Hartman said she cast her vote in the negative because she had not received information she had requested regarding teacher salaries.

“I was trying to judge people (whose salaries) hadn’t been frozen,” Hartman said. “Others are getting raises. Quite a few teachers have been frozen. I was asking how long they had been frozen and how much they were making.”

Hartman said she had requested a list of salaries over $50,000 a year, but said that Board Chairwoman Beth Reid had denied her request. Reid said the salary list was not provided because the Board as a whole did not request that information. District salaries over $50,000 a year are public information, Reid said, which could be obtained with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

“She can certainly have that information under the Freedom of Information Act,” Reid said, “but individual Board members should be reminded that individual Board members have no power. The Board as a whole can request information. If she wanted that information, she could have it under the FOIA.”

McDaniel, who signed off from the meeting after casting her ‘No’ vote, said later her concerns centered on the superintendent’s contingency fund.

“While I fully support all funding for children and instructional purposes as well as effective and efficient central support for our district, I cannot in good faith as a trustee for the district vote for a budget that allows over $40,000 (in) funding without board approved guidelines and accountability,” McDaniel wrote The Voice in an email this week, “particularly since I have been denied the expenditure detail transaction report from the accounting system for the current year ‘discretionary’ expenditures.”

In response to McDaniel’s questions during discussion of the budget, Reid and Superintendent J.R. Green confirmed that the fund stood at $42,500 for the coming fiscal year, and while the fund was labeled a “contingency” fund it was to be used at Green’s discretion.

“I support a district approved contingency account, but not a ‘discretionary’ account,” McDaniel’s email continued. “Finally, I am concerned about the board’s authority to approve taxpayers’ dollars to be used at one individual’s ‘discretion’.”

The 2014-2015 budget carries the same millage rate – 203.1 mills – as last year’s budget, according to Kevin Robinson, Director of Finance. Revenues are expected to increase by $1.2 million, Robinson said, as a result of an increase in the property tax base, while expenditures – chiefly in salaries and benefits – will rise by approximately $1 million.

The Board also gave approval of a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN), not to exceed $5.7 million, to help carry the District through January when the majority of tax revenues come in. Last year the District issued a TAN of $6.1 million. The note will be acquired through the S.C. Association of Governmental Organizations (SCAGO), which reduces the cost for such loans, Robinson said. While Robinson did not yet have numbers for the 2014-2015 interest rate, he said last year’s rate was around 1 percent.

Prior to taking up the budget, the Board voted 4-2 to accept a bid of $12,582 from John R. Frazier, Inc. to harvest 10 acres of timber around the existing Career and Technology Center. It was the only bid received by the District on the project, which was bid out by Forest Land Management, Inc. The timber is being harvested to prepare the Career Center for its new role as headquarters of the District’s Transportation Department once construction on the new Career Center, between the middle and high schools, is complete.

McDaniel and Hartman voted against accepting the bid. McDaniel said she wanted to know what efforts the District made to reach out to local companies to encourage them to submit bids, and Hartman said she felt like the Board should have waited to vote until additional bids had been received.