School board OKs forming 2 new committees

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To tackle large, complex issues facing the district, Sumter School District's Board of Trustees unanimously approved Friday a motion to form two small committees to study current needs related to facilities and curriculum instruction. Those committees will report directly to - and make recommendations to - the full board, but will not have voting authority on their own, according to board Chairman the Rev. Daryl McGhaney and Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm.

McGhaney said Friday he and Hamm met last week and agreed a facilities committee and curriculum instruction and assessment committee needed to be formed among the board members.

According to Hamm, the facilities committee will 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 and to consider the possibility of building a new technical high school for various career and technology education programs.

Hamm also said the facilities committee will work toward developing a sound, long-term facilities' plan for the district to include regular reinvestments at the district's schools of major items, such as roofs and air conditioning units.

The board decided Friday that new at-large board member William Byrd will chair the facilities' committee. Board Vice Chair Karen Michalik and Shaw Air Force Base board representative Jane Allen will also serve on the committee.

The curriculum instruction and assessment committee will be tasked with studying continuous improvement in classroom teaching and learning, according to Hamm.

The board decided fellow new at-large board member Bonnie Disney will chair the curriculum committee. Board members Johnny Hilton and Allen also agreed to serve on the committee.

Hamm explained small board committees are often more efficient when careful study is necessary with larger, complicated projects and issues as opposed to the full board wading through all the issues together.

In other matters, the board also unanimously approved a motion a "millage rate swop," in tax law terms, that will decrease the county's debt service millage rate by 10 mills and increase general operating millage by 10 mills for one year. The board emphasized the measure will not increase any residents' taxes for one year and will actually reduce homeowner four percent owner-occupied taxes slightly for one year since homeowners are not subject to the general operating millage rate.

The measure was possible since the board decided at its last meeting on Aug. 28 to borrow about $3 million less this year in a standard bond resolution, according to district Chief Financial Officer Chris Griner. Griner said the "millage rate swop" will also add about $2 million to the district's general fund balance this fiscal year.

"With the resolution, there is no increase to the taxpayers - that was our biggest message with this," Griner said. "It's helping the school district also get our fund balance in somewhat better shape."

2017 GENERAL FUND BALANCE INCHES UP

Related to the district's finances, Griner also reported to the board that the district will likely close out fiscal year 2017 - as of June 30, 2017 - with a projected total ending fund balance of $665,165, after all accruals. That's an increase of about $260,000 from his previous calculations of an ending fund balance of $405,964.

Griner said the increase comes from additional military impact aid revenue recently received by the district from the federal government related to Shaw Air Force Base. The impact aid is a revenue source for the district since base property isn't subject to property taxes. The district also recently received additional Medicaid revenue that added to the year-end fund balance, according to Griner.

Generally, all accruals at the end of each fiscal year - June 30 - are paid and accounted for by the end of August; so, Griner said he believes the new general fund balance total for 2017 is a more precise estimate and he doesn't anticipate any significant changes when the district's annual audit is completed later this fall.

That total ending net income for fiscal 2017 will not be used in any way in this year's budget and will be added to the ending fund balance from fiscal 2016 to give the district a projected total ending fund balance as of June 30, 2017, of $771,614, Griner said.

SCHOOLS CLOSED MONDAY, OTHER MATTERS

In her district update, Hamm announced that schools will be closed Monday due to Hurricane Irma. Hamm also announced that Mayewood Middle School Principal Anita Hunter and Alice Drive Elementary School Assistant Principal Karen Buffalo have been selected to participate in the South Carolina Educational Policy Fellowship program.

In other news, the board unanimously approved:

- a revised district capital projects list for this school year, totaling about $10.8 million. That list consists of classroom instructional technology needs and school maintenance / operational needs in the district;

- a motion to allow the interim superintendent to add one new full-time position in district administration;

- a motion to accept the district's Minority Business Enterprise Utilization Plan with the stipulation that the district's goal is for 10 percent of its purchasing budget to be directed toward minority businesses.

The school board moved its regularly scheduled monthly board meeting to Friday from Monday because of the forecast for Irma's expected arrival in the state on Monday night and Tuesday.

The board's next scheduled meeting is Sept. 25 at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road.

Hilton, who also serves as the board's finance committee chairman, said the advisory finance committee -- which consists of some board members and local private-business leaders -- will hold its monthly meeting on Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. at the district office.