The Charleston County School Board passed a $323.5 million budget for next school year, but the plan requires them to borrow money from the district's contingency fund in order to avoid a deficit. The budget passed just barely, in a 5-4 vote, including one in favor of the plan being cast by phone, which caused some controversy.
From The Post and Courier:
"We had to do what we did," board Chairman Hillery Douglas said after the vote. "There was absolutely no other way to do this than what's been done." The board could have increased class sizes or laid off employees to save money, but it didn't want to do that and negatively affect programs that are working, he said.
Five school board members gave final approval to next year's combined operating and debt service budgets of $384.1 million, which will increase taxes for homeowners and businesses. Board member Brian Moody, the critical fifth vote, cast his support for the budget by phone.
Board member David Engelman, who never has voted in support of a budget, said he didn't think it was legal to allow Moody's phone vote, but Douglas said he'd checked with the district's legal counsel, who said it was fine.
From Live 5 News:
Douglas says less funding from state government and increased fuel and electricity costs have made this year one of the toughest in all his years on the board.
Staffers plan to take more than $7-million dollars from the district's reserve fund.
"We had to find the money somewhere. We've cut back on a lot of jobs, a lot of items that we normally would like to sponsor," said Douglas.
The budget cuts more than 49 positions from the district.
Also, both Live 5 and ABC News 4 discuss the effect of the budget on businesses and homeowners. The spending plan raises taxes for homeowners by about $44 a year on a $200,000 home, News 4 reports, and it includes a 5.5-mill increase for businesses.