Motions to go before Sumter School District board again


Board committee reports and an update of happenings across the district by the interim superintendent highlight the agenda for Monday's Sumter School District's Board of Trustees meeting at the district office.

After a mix-up in communication prevented the school board's Facilities Committee Chairman William Byrd from presenting motions to the full board at the board's last meeting Oct. 23, Byrd plans to introduce two motions to the board Monday for discussion.

Those motions involve two independent studies that could affect the future of low-enrollment schools in the district. One is a facilities study that would be a comprehensive look at existing schools' physical assets and needs, and the other is a county population demographics study to include short-term and long-term enrollment projections in the district's schools.

The board formed the facilities committee Sept. 8 to study various brick-and-mortar needs, such as what to do in the future with smaller low-enrollment schools in the district to increase operational efficiencies. In their initial meeting on Oct. 20, committee members approved both motions.

On Monday, the full board is expected to discuss the merits of having the studies conducted by independent consultants. Byrd said previously the studies' costs may be a factor in the board's decision to move forward with them or not.

Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm has said she will move forward with the formal process of seeking study proposers, if the board gives her the go-ahead.

The topic of closing low-enrollment schools has been discussed at least to some degree since a district financial crisis was discovered last year. The fiscal 2016 audit report, released in December, revealed the district overspent by $6.2 million that year, drying up most of its general fund balance.

The district has recovered somewhat from the crisis, projecting to add about $665,000 to its fund balance for fiscal 2017. A "millage rate swap," passed by the full board in September, will also add about $2 million to the general fund balance this fiscal year.

However, the district does face the issue of declining enrollment, which directly translates to less revenue it can receive from the state, affecting the general fund balance.

According to initial estimates, district Chief Financial Officer Chris Griner said an estimated 170 student decrease in K-12 enrollment this school year from last year will reduce state funding to the district next year by about $400,000.

The Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee, chaired by board member Bonnie Disney, will also present a report Monday to the full board, according to the agenda.

Monday's meeting at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road, is open to the public, and public participation is also listed on the agenda.

More on purchase for technical school

According to county sources and district CFO Chris Griner, the district paid a total of $890,000 at the end of October to purchase the land at 841 Broad St., where Bubba's Diner is located, and for the adjoining lot, where the former Central Park fast food restaurant was located. Special one-time state funding, via the state Technical College System and Central Carolina Technical College, paid for the entire purchase, the district and other officials said. No district funds were used in the purchase.