School budget report offers possible hope

county — Compared with the packed auditoriums and impassioned public pleas that defined the prior two Pickens County school board meetings, Monday night’s called board meeting bordered on anti-climactic.

The primary focus of the meeting was a report on the latest general fund budget draft from district executive director of financial services Missy Campbell, following the board’s decision to eliminate 84 SDPC positions last week.

Campell, who monitors legislative actions closely to have the most current information available in creating the SDPC budget, provided trustees with information about a possible revenue increase in EIA funding that could, based on existing revenue projections and estimated expenditures, mean $1.2 million revenue in excess of expenditures. Should this fortune materialize for the district, the hope is that several eliminated positions can be factored back into the budget.

“Neither (SDPC superintendent Henry) Hunt nor Mrs. Campbell has any other details about the allocations,” Thompson explained in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We do hope to know more from the state in the coming days and hope to have concrete information by the first reading of the budget on April 25.

“If, in fact, the district receives the additional revenue, Dr. Hunt will recommend that some of the eliminated positions be reinstated. Right now, further discussions about reinstating positions would be premature.”

Hunt emphasized at Monday night’s meeting that the budget process is in a constant state of change. All of the information filtered to the district is based on the House version of the budget, not the final state budget. With the first reading of the FY 2011-2012 budget scheduled for two weeks from Monday’s meeting, Hunt is optimistic that more information from Columbia will allow district administrations to be “more knowledgeable” and have “firmer figures” with which to work.

“As we continue to look at the budget and consider a possible increase in revenue, hopefully we can back away from position eliminations,” he said.

School board chairman Alex Saitta was quick to point out that the district needs to be certain they have the extra revenue before they spend it.

“Last week the board voted to eliminate 84 positions in order to balance the 2011-12 budget,” said Saitta. “We learned tonight there is a possibility the state could give us up to an extra $1 million. While we won’t know this for sure for another month, if it is true, it would be good news. This way we could restore some of the most vital positions that were eliminated, not have to borrow any money and still balance the budget.”

“I feel good about what Missy has shown us,” board member Judy Edwards said. “Hopefully we will be able to add positions back.”
There might be hope on the horizon for saving some of the positions on the chopping block. For SDPC administration, it is a waiting game until the final state budget is announced from Columbia.