Sumter School District tries to fill vacancies, manage its other expenses


Sumter School District is trying to balance filling necessary teacher and staff vacancies as best as possible while being as conservative with periphery expenditures as it can be at this time, according to the district's lead financial official.

District Chief Financial Officer Chris Griner made the comments Tuesday during Sumter School District's Board of Trustees' monthly Finance Committee meeting at the district office.

The district still has about 45 to 50 personnel vacancies across various categories to include classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and others, Griner explained. He attributed the teacher vacancies to the teacher shortage, which is being felt nationwide.

All classrooms without certified teachers have long-term substitutes until a certified teacher can be hired, according to Griner.

Griner said the district's goal is to have a certified teacher in every classroom.

In the long term with periphery expenditures outside the classroom, the district is trying to manage those costs as much as possible in order to build its savings account - better known as the general fund balance - back up after financial difficulties in recent years.

A new law in the state advises school districts to have at least one month's operating expenses in their general fund balance or face corrective measures. One month's operating expenses for Sumter School District's $131 million budget this fiscal year translates to $10.9 million.

In fiscal 2016, before Griner came on staff as CFO, the district overspent its budget by $6.2 million and had an ending general fund balance of $106,449 - a critically low level, according to the district's auditor, Robin Poston.

With the assistance of a financial consultant and an emergency financial plan implemented in January, the district's projected ending fund balance for fiscal year 2017 - representing July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017 - is $665,165. Adding the two ending fund balances together gives the district a total ending fund balance as of June 30, 2017, of about $771,000 - therefore the need to manage secondary expenditures as much as possible, according to Griner.

"Long term, we are trying to continue to be conservative and manage the expenses that we can control," Griner said.

Griner reiterated to the finance committee that in borrowing about $2 million less for capital projects this school year, the district will add about $2 million in revenue to its general fund balance this year through a "millage rate swap" that was approved by the school board last month.

In other matters, Griner said Poston began her annual audit work with the district recently. So far, Poston has not had any findings with purchase orders and invoices from fiscal 2017, according to Griner.

Poston will present the official fiscal 2017 audit report to the board of trustees at its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.