Opinion: Sumter's future depends on rebuilding Team Sumter

Posted

Mr. Robert Johnson's letter to the editor on July 16, 2019, titled "School district should cut spending with its feet held to the fire," validates the old adage, "A little learning is a dangerous thing." It reveals that he lacks sufficient knowledge of S.C. Act 388, which became law under the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2006.

The first sentence in Mr. Johnson's letter is absurd. A major component and restriction under S.C. Act 388 is that it sets a cap on the number of mills a school can request. The annual millage rate for each district is set by the S.C. Department of Revenue. Districts with fiscal autonomy are subject to caps under Act 388. Therefore, there is no reason for an overseeing body.

Since Mr. Johnson's additional comments are an abundance of assumptions without any facts to back them up, they are unworthy of any intellectual response.

"When you invest in yourself, others will invest in you" (Baten, 2009). Today, Sumter is not presenting an attractive image for new businesses and industry. Our three elected bodies (legislative delegation, county council and the school board of trustees) don't trust each other. The delegation is micromanaging the trustees, and county council is micromanaging the school district's $133 million budget. Who wants to invest in a chaotic community?

Members of county council are acting hypocritical. While they are denying funds to the school district, they are voicing their anger toward members of the legislative delegation about the shortage of funds Sumter is being denied under the Local Government Fund. The state Legislature passed a law in 1991, which promised cities and counties the equivalent of 4.5 percent of the previous year's state budget. During the recession, the Legislature "unlawfully" cut the LGF. This has resulted in over $6.5 million in lost revenue to Sumter County.

The future of Sumter County depends on leaders rebuilding Team Sumter by putting aside their personal ambitions and focusing on what is best for all citizens. If not, public education will continue to decline.

EUGENE R. BATEN

Sumter County Council, District 7