The $683.5 million budget approved by the Horry County Board of Education Monday includes raises for teachers, funding for safety and security repairs, and additional special education positions.
The spending plan does not, however, cover additional school band uniforms, despite a last-minute effort by some board members to add that item to the budget.
New additions for next year include $100,000 for safety and security repairs, $1.9 million toward a new K-12 STEM program, $1.1 million for a special education teacher and related service and support staff positions, as well as $555,000 for seven new ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) teachers and $228,000 for three more RBHS (rehabilitative behavioral health services) counselors.
Eighty percent of this past year’s budget was wrapped up in personnel costs, and that piece goes up to 86.2 percent of the budget for next year.
HCS Chief Financial Officer John Gardner told the board during their budget workshop last month that the district is expecting 397 more children next school year, but the district is also expecting $4.6 million more in property tax revenues.
The school building fund will see a decrease of $27 million, as Gardner said they are finishing many of their major construction projects.
The tax rate will not change under the new spending plan, which takes effect July 1.
Just before the board was preparing to vote Monday, District 3 member Ray Winters made a motion to add $100,000 to help schools replace old band uniforms. He said that funding should be recurring.
His idea was to have Fine Arts Director Scott Scrivner create a replacement plan, in order of the age of uniforms, and that figure would cover two schools per year.
District 7 board member Janet Graham said that since Conway High School staff had taken on the responsibility of raising money for new uniforms themselves, they should be moved to the top of the replacement list and be reimbursed for the money they spent.
Graham said they sacrificed money from other parts of their school that are in dire need of improvements in order to make room in the budget for uniforms.
“Students feel a sense of pride because they made that happen," she said. "We don’t want to dissuade students from doing what is right."
She said it would open up “a can of worms” regarding other types of uniforms in schools.
District 9 member Chris Hardwick agreed, saying the board needs to deal with the issue.
“We can’t address one aspect of it without considering the whole," he said. "We’re opening up for a lot of criticism and disgruntled parents if we only address one issue."
Helen Smith, the representative from District 6, said if the uniforms were so important they should have been part of the discussion months ago.
“I’m not against the band uniforms, but I don’t think this is the proper way to put a plan in place,” she said.
District 4 member David Cox commended Conway High staff for raising money, but he said Winters’ idea is not a bad one.
“Every journey starts with a step," he said. "It’s going to cause some ruffles, I know, but we have to start somewhere. There are always hurt feelings … regardless of what we do, somebody’s going to be offended. We live in the United States of offended.”
Scrivner said he agreed that Conway and Loris should be paid back for the money they raised and sacrificed from other needed areas, and the residuals left after paying for the chosen schools' uniforms for the year would go to Conway and Loris to repay them.
However, Winters' amendment was voted down.
District 1 member Holly Heniford then proposed another motion related to band uniforms, except this time in the form of a stipend of $5,000 to each band in the district to be used towards uniforms or other needed band items.
“This school activity gets them out of the street, gets them off social media, gets them involved a group with support … lift these kids up … we could maybe save a few more kids,” Heniford said.
She cited costs of instruments and travel for competitions, saying it costs nearly $2,000 for a 4A school to drive from Horry County to Columbia for a competition, and that one tuba is approximately $5,000.
District 10 member Neil James said he could not support the amendment until he could see it written down.
“It’s evolving and changing as we’re discussing,” James said.
Shanda Allen of District 11 thought more discussion was needed as well.
“This is evidently a Pandora’s Box … we’ve gotten out of order … until I see something that incorporates all of those departments, I think we’re asking for more to be brought to the table than we can ask our taxpayers to support at the moment,” she said.
Heniford’s amendment vote came down to a tie, which chairman Ken Richardson broke with his “no” vote.
“I believe in your mission," Richardson told Heniford. "It’s the timing I have concern with.”
Scrivner said he was disappointed and recalled the item being discussed briefly in February, despite comments from the board that they had just heard about it a week prior. He hopes to bring it up for discussion at a later meeting.
Heniford cast the lone “no” vote for the comprehensive budget approval, and District 5 member Janice Morreale was not in attendance.
In other board news:
- Rene Cazier will become the new principal of River Oaks Elementary beginning July 1, 2019.