MTC president questioned on how county funding is spent

WINNSBORO – With Fairfield County considering tax increases and agency cuts to balance the budget, questions arose during a work session Tuesday about how the county funds Midlands Technical College.

MTC president Ronald Rhames acknowledged this year’s $155,100 funding request – up from about $143,000 last year – would be spent not only in Fairfield County, but also Richland and Lexington counties.

“It’s used for all of our physical plant operations,” Rhames said.
Pauley questioned other aspects of MTC funding that he said is often vague.

This year’s request of $155,100 is characterized as “Other.” In prior years, MTC classified its requests to the county as “building maintenance.”

Pauley found that odd, noting that the county fully maintains the MTC building in Winnsboro, a process that involves trimming bushes and removing bird nests. Then the county also provides MTC with funding for maintenance.

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take $155,000 to do those things,” Pauley said. “You could offer a whole lot more in Fairfield County. Two academic classes, I feel, is not enough.”

Rhames suggested that the Fairfield money helps backfill MTC’s overall budget, thereby saving students money in the long run.

“The money you provided helped lower the costs of students attending MTC when they come to Columbia to attend one of our campuses,” he said. “We have a number of Fairfield citizens taking advantage of those courses.”

Pauley also stated that MTC’s Fairfield campus is only offering two courses – English 101 and History 201 – in the upcoming fall semester. There was conflicting information about whether MTC-Fairfield offered one or two courses this past spring.

“With the amount of money that Fairfield County has given, we’re not getting the best bang for the buck,” Councilman Doug Pauley said.

Moments earlier, Rhames extolled how 25 Fairfield County high school students were slated to receive associate’s degrees or certificates this week. He said county funding helped make that happen.

“These students have a head start. Your investment allows this,” Rhames said. “These students are saving their parents a tremendous amount of money.”

MTC is one of 22 outside agencies that have requested county funding to help subsidize their 2022-2023 budgets. Tuesday’s work session gave those agencies a forum to formally request funding.

Most presentations wrapped up in a few minutes with council members asking few to no questions. MTC’s request, however, garnered considerable commentary.

Pauley pressed Rhames about whether MTC students really attended spring classes for free as the state had promised.

Rhames responded that while the governor’s office recently pledged free technical college education for eligible students, the state only provided 20 to 25 percent of the necessary funding.

MTC covered what the state didn’t fund, Rhames said.

“For the students who qualified for it, the institution made up the difference to make sure we honored the commitment the governor made,” he said.

Not all council members contested MTC finances.

In spite of scant academic offerings at the Winnsboro campus and most of Fairfield’s funding being spent in other counties, County Chairman Moses Bell applauded the college system for its efforts.

“You and I have talked about those courses, those free courses, those community courses,” Bell said. “That’s been a success for this county.”

No decisions were made on any of the outside agency requests.

The county will likely hold second of three readings on the budget in two weeks. A third budget work session is tentatively set for Monday, May 16.

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