Second reading of SDPC budget passes with no public input

COUNTY — Not a single person signed up to speak regarding the School District of Pickens County’s 2012-2013 General Fund Budget (GFB) during a public hearing at Monday night’s scheduled SDPC board meeting.
While previous budget-related meetings have drawn a standing-room-only crowd, the board room of the Curtis A. Sidden Administration Building was notably empty.
Board trustee Ben Trotter made a motion to move the public hearing to the third reading of the GFB, because he wondered if there had been some confusion surrounding notification of the public hearing.
SDPC finance director Clark Webb confirmed for board trustees that a notice had been placed in The Greenville News on Friday, May 25, in accordance with state law.
“I hate to do this,” said Trotter, “but a lot of people don’t read that paper.”
Confident that the law had been satisfied and the public had received ample notice concerning the public hearing, Trotter’s motion to move the hearing failed.
The second reading of the FY 2012-2013 General Fund Budget, in the amount of $98.9 million, passed in a unanimous vote.
Included in the budget, according to Webb, is a base student cost of $2,012 per student; teacher salary support share in the amount of $1.3 million; the maintenance of school staffing ratio of 21.5 to 1; a 2 percent increase in state minimum pay schedule for certified employees and a 2 percent increase for all classified employees; $70,000 for bus patrols and nine additional people for operations, which include grounds crew, HVAC, carpentry and custodians.
Special revenue funds have been used for 2.5 4K teachers, 2.5 4K assistants, four graduation coaches, eight elementary teachers for transition classes and one reading recovery teacher.
“We still don’t know the final budget from the state,” said Webb. “We will continue to monitor this.”
Board chair Alex Saitta had a few comments regarding the budget in the area of school supplies and non-revenue generating sports.
“One issue I have is with supplies. We are going to increase supplies, I think, to $213,000. I want to make sure the money actually goes to the classroom,” he said. “For sports, the suggestion I have is that if we do get additional money from the state we give it to non-revenue sports. We have lists from schools of the equipment needed by non-revenue sports.”
In addition to allocating funds to non-revenue sports, Saitta also supported salary benefits for high school athletic coaches who are successful at fundraising for their schools.
“The high schools want to pay their coaches more of a supplement. I don’t know that the general fund has that money, but if their sports program generates a positive return that year, because they are aggressively selling and able to raise money — like Easley — they should be able to take some of that profit and pay higher supplements at that school,” said Saitta. “If a school doesn’t generate and make money — doesn’t do a good job of fund raising — football teams don’t win, people don’t come in, that school doesn’t get to pay coaches more — that’s just the way it is.”
Trustee Judy Edwards agreed with helping to fund non-revenue sports and other school needs.
“If we get the 5 percent from the state, I agree we need to save some of it, but I also think it is time to spend some of it to use for things that our kids need such as athletic equipment,” she said. “We don’t need to spend all of it, but we need to spend some of it if we get it for technology, computers for the kids. Some of it needs to be spent.”
While the FY 2012-2012 GFB is balanced, Saitta says there is still work to be done in the SDPC when it comes to money management.
“At some point, I think what we have to do is focus on three different things to keep us moving forward in education — better utilize special revue money, when new money comes in, it needs to get directed to the classroom, and the third thing we’ve got to do is cut low priorities in our budget,” said Saitta. “It is going to require better financial management, and we are starting to do it. I think it’s wonderful.”