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School district: Stimulus money helps close budget gap

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

The addition of an estimated $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds means Georgetown County schools won’t cut teachers this year. It will also cut the number of furlough days in half. But it won’t prevent a tax increase for commercial property owners.

With these changes in place, the Georgetown County School Board approved the $73.4 million budget for the 2010 fiscal year.

The budget is $2.3 million less than last year’s due to state funding cuts, but the district only faces a $439,000 deficit due to federal stimulus money that funds programs for low-income and disabled students.

That amount is just a conservative estimate, according to Lisa Johnson, the district’s associate superintendant of finance.

Since the state Supreme Court ordered Gov. Mark Sanford to apply for the full amount of federal stimulus money June 4, Johnson believes the district will know the exact amount it will receive sometime this summer.

Meanwhile the estimated $1.3 million allowed the district to find jobs for the four remaining displaced teachers, put $5,000 back into the human resources recruitment fund – $10,000 was originally cut – and reinstate tuition reimbursement, a $75,000 line item.

Johnson said her department will also work on eliminating the $439,000 deficit throughout the year.

“The furlough time was also reduced because of additional stimulus money,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

Teachers will now have one furlough day rather than two.

Other employees will have two furlough days instead of four.

Dozier thinks the money may also help the district find jobs for most of the 13 displaced administrative and support personnel. Still Georgetown County residents who own second homes or commercial property will notice their property taxes will increase by 4.2 mills or about $25 for every $100,000 of property value.

The increase will give the district about $1.7 million.

The approved budget also dealt with necessary increases in district energy costs, worker’s health insurance and compensation, employee fringe benefits and required step increases in teacher salaries.

These totaled approximately $1.2 million, while another $733,000 will go to fund five new administrative assistant positions and keep five teachers in a teacher pool.

In comparison, the district cut approximately $4.2 million from last year’s budget by slashing attendance bonuses, reducing contract and rental services, academic stipends and closing its warehouse. Most of the $4.2 million came from cuts or changes in positions.

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