School board clears up officers’ elections

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

COUNTY — The School District of Pickens County’s Board of Trustees changed the wording on its rules for electing officers recently, clearing up some confusion that came when then-chairman Ben Trotter resigned last month.

The rule now says that in the event of the chairman’s resignation, the board’s vice-chairman would step into the role of chairman, the secretary would then become the new vice-chairman and a new secretary would then be elected by the board.

No duties would change for the chairman or the vice-chairman, the board agreed.

The three members of the board’s policy committee are Alex Saitta, Judy Edwards and Jim Shelton. All three were present for a committee meeting Monday night.

Shelton said that as the board moves forward, it needs to address situations in which costs do not equal the money available.

“How do we write that into a policy?” Shelton said.

Saitta shared Shelton’s concern.

“If we have a need, get the money and pay for the need, taxes will go up every year,” Saitta said.

But Edwards was afraid such language might discourage growth in coming years.

“The board does not need to tie their hands,” Edwards said.

Shelton agreed.

“We don’t want to put the administration in a bind,” he said.

Saitta said the board needs to protect the public from numerous tax hikes in the coming years.

“The district’s bond tax rate is now about 35 mills higher than it was in 2006 when the building plan was passed,” Saitta said. “The school district has about 800,000 more square feet to maintain. It can’t rely on borrowing and raising bond tax rates even more, because it has gone to that well too much already, and the tax rate is going to be rising on its own anyway.”

Saitta foresees tax problems coming up regardless of the board’s action.

“Right now the school bond tax rate is 52 mills and will rise above 60 this year. 4.5 mills of the increase will be due to the rising bond payment from $24.3 million to $26.3 million,” Saitta said. “That rising payment schedule was adopted when the 2006 board passed this plan back then. Additionally, this is a reassessment year. I was told by the county, total assessed values are down 10 percent, so the tax rate will roll up 10 percent, so that’s another 5 mill tax increase that is coming down the pike.”

Saitta offered his solution to the problem.

“My view is the district/ board must focus on being more economical in its future capital purchases (roofs, HVACs, repaving, computer refreshes) and also look for efficiencies when it comes to managing the maintenance of its buildings and equipment,” Saitta said.

None of the proposals discussed Monday become policy without the approval of the full school board.