District Budget Grows

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An additional $28 million will be needed from local taxpayers (though most won't come from homeowners) to pay for school district costs, finance staff told the district on Monday in a first look at the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The $318.5 million operating budget includes new money for salary increases (including state-mandated increases for teachers), more than $4 million in new costs for charter schools, and nearly $2 million needed to replace lost revenue from the state. That is if the legislature makes good on $10.4 million promised to offset $12.3 million in lost state revenue do to the state’s funding formula for schools that benefits rural districts.

“They continue to cut funding and demand that we spend more money,” says board member Gregg Meyers.

The silver lining for Charleston taxpayers is that the sales tax approved by voters in November will offset the operating cost for the school district, including the increase. The black cloud is that the rest of the taxpayers (business owners, those with vacation or rental property, and those with personal property like boats and cars) will not have the same out.

And all taxpayers, including homeowners, will be responsible for paying taxes on the district’s debt. That’s estimated at more than $60.5 million next year, which will require an additional $16.3 million from taxpayers over last year. That’s going to mean an extra $38 from a taxpayer with a $200,000 home (though the money homeowners will save on the school district's operating costs will likely swallow the hike).

Any news of an increase is bad news, according to board member Arthur Ravenel Jr., who made no secret that he’s looking for a budget without a tax hike for anyone, be they businessesmen or homeowners. “Go back to your drawing board and see if you can bring us a budget that doesn’t reflect a millage increase,” he told district finance chief Don Kennedy.

The board will hold a special budget workshop next Monday when district figures will be more concrete.

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