Board votes not to raise taxes

Final SDPC capital plan vote slated for Dec. 15

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

EASLEY — The Pickens County School Board of Trustees, faced with three options for addressing the school district’s capital improvement needs, have chosen — at least for now — the option featuring no tax increase.

School district spokesman John Eby said the vote on second reading was the first of two the board will make, with the final vote on third reading slated for Dec. 15. First reading in title only was given at last week’s regularly scheduled meeting.

The board selected the $3.2 million funding option, which would feature no millage increase but a plan deemed the most regressive of the three options. The option is in contrast to the district’s recommendation that a funding option of $5.8 million be approved — featuring a 4.8-mill increase and deemed as the moderate option.

Another option, funded at $8.5 million, would feature a 10-mill increase and is considered to be proactive. However, that option was not considered.

Eby said the $5.8 million option requested by the district would have generated the funds needed annually for facilities, technology and other needs. But Eby said the $3.2 million option falls short.

“That is the maximum amount of money that could be had without raising the tax rate, but that plan leaves us about $2.6 million short of meeting our needs — urgent needs presented to the board — and would put additional strain on the general fund,” Eby said.

Last week, a team consisting of administrators, teachers, parents and community members presented a five-year plan that, among other things, proposed that the district follow through with recent five-year Capital Improvements Plan recommendations. The plan recommended options totaling $5.8 million.

School superintendent Danny Merck said restoring certified and classified employees’ salary STEP increases to the prescribed state levels — something the district fell two years behind due to budgetary constraints — would also be a high priority in the plan.

During Monday night’s meeting, trustee Judy Edwards made an initial motion to approve the $5.8 million option. However, trustee Henry Wilson made an amended motion to adopt the $3.2 million option that would refinance the building program and require a bond issue while leaving the millage rate the same.

When trustee Alex Saitta made a substitute motion to finance by taking out $500,000 in TIF proceeds and $330,000 from the sale of property and putting it toward capital needs, the motion failed 5-1. The board then unanimously agreed to Wilson’s motion, which may or may not change when the final vote is taken Dec. 15.

“The board could reconsider approval of the $5.8 million plan or amend the plan in other ways,” Eby said.

Trustee Phillip Bowers, who represents the Central-Six Mile area of District 2, said he felt the sentiment was that the board needed to pass some type of measure.

“Had we voted it down altogether, the administration would have had to start over and the first-, second-, third-reading clock would have restarted once the new proposal was presented to the board,” Bowers said. “I voted for it to keep it alive because I strongly feel we need a package deal on the bond and the general fund. We need to couple any bond increase with correcting our teacher pay rates, classroom supply budgets and student safety issues that will require developing an alternative program for some students with behavioral problems.”