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Education: Board backs plan to spend bond funds on deficit

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

The Georgetown County School Board voted this week to use funds from bonds to close the district’s budget deficit or replenish the district’s reserves, if it can’t come up with an alternative.

A bill passed in the legislature this year would allow the district to use the proceeds from bonds issued for capital projects to fund operating expense in the 2011 fiscal year.

It has gone to Gov. Mark Sanford for his signature, which is unlikely because he typically vetoes bills that pertain to only one county as unconstitutional.

A majority of the county’s four-member delegation could also override the veto.

“Does this mean that we’ll not be able to issue a general obligation bond to put money in the treasury” School Board Member Benny Elliott said.

Superintendent Randy Dozier said any bond money used would be funds left over because capital projects came in under budget.

“Before we did anything, it would be for a specific purpose,” he said. And he would come to the board for approval, he said.

The district has cut $8.8 million from its budget since 2008 and used approximately $500,000 from its reserve fund last year to cover a deficit. About $6 million is left in reserve.

To cut costs, the district eliminated unnecessary positions and raised taxes last year to make up for those cuts, but it still faces a $3 million deficit in the 2011 budget.

A state tax reform law, known as Act 388, caps the amount the district can raise taxes to fund school operations, and the district has hit that cap.

“Hopefully we will be able to reduce that over time,” Dozier said.

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