Aiken school board facing $2.2M budget shortfall

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, May 24, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- For former principal and now board member Dwight Smith, this budget year could be the toughest yet for the Aiken County Board of Education.

"You know, Chad, I wish I could say there was a permanent fix, but this is my 37th year dealing with education, and funding has always been a problem," said Smith, who represents parts of Warrenville and Graniteville.

This time around, a $2.2 million budget shortfall is looming. Smith says the board would get out the scissors, but there's a problem.

"We just can't find a cut," he said.

Smith says during a budget workshop, board members identified some areas to cut, but many of those were mandated by either the state or federal government.

However, certain programs are on the chopping block, starting with reading interventionists, a program that helps elementary students who are struggling with reading skills.

"Because of the budget shortfall, we've had to cut eight of them and that has really hurt because that's where it all starts," Smith said.

Smith points out more bad news. He says that the State of South Carolina also plans to increase insurance rates for employees. He says, worst-case scenario, it could mean an additional $750,000 from the budget.

"Yes, I would have to agree that this is a little bit more difficult than any one we've faced before," said Deputy Superintendent David Caver.

Caver says people in the district can expect a tax increase. He says taxes for individual homeowners will actually go down due to a financial mechanism they're using. However, the increase will affect people with vehicles, rentals or multiple properties. Businesses will feel it, too.

"We feel like we have a good plan for that deficit, but it just prevents us from moving forward the way we want to and the way the community expects us to," Caver said.

Right now, Smith says there's no talks of layoffs or furloughs, but he's worried.

"We just have to deal with it the best we can and do what's the right thing to do, first of all, for the kids, and second of all, for the taxpayers," he said.

According to the district website: "The School Board has scheduled a special called meeting for June 4, 2013, at 6 p.m. in order to receive public input on the budget. A public hearing on the final budget will be held on June 11, 2013, at 7 p.m. Adoption of the final budget is scheduled for June 25, 2013." here and Click here for more details.


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