Questions still loom over ACE budget, school board members say

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMay 6, 2014 

Questions continue to surround how much the Beaufort County School District will contribute to the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.

At a meeting Tuesday night, several school board members wanted to consider eight questions presented last month about how much of its budget ACE spends outside the classroom before deciding how much to contribute to the vocational and technical school this year.

Board members Earl Campbell and Michael Rivers, who represent the district on the ACE board along with school board member Jim Beckert, were expected to answer those questions Tuesday night.

However, since the board did not receive those answers in advance of the meeting, board chairman Bill Evans delayed a vote to approve the ACE budget until the board's finance committee can review the answers.

"We don't have time to digest this in a reasonable fashion (tonight)," Evans said. "Secondly, in my mind, there aren't complete answers here ... .There's data and information here that we didn't have before, but there's not complete answers, so that's why I have a problem," he said.

The questions the board has posed to ACE revolve around how the school spends money outside the classroom on things such as support and administrative staff.

Of the roughly $2.5 million Beaufort County gives ACE annually -- and is being asked to contribute again this year -- about 53 percent will go to instruction while 47 percent will pay for support services.

In Beaufort County schools, the district spends a little more than 70 percent of its budget in the classroom, district superintendent Jeff Moss has said.

Board members have wondered if the ACE program would be more successful if its $3.7 million budget was better managed. Jasper County schools contribute a little more than $1 million to that budget annually.

"The director of ACE does not answer to this board, and that's the reason she's not before us tonight," board member Laura Bush said. "By the same token, there's nothing wrong with this board having questions before the ACE budget is approved."

The school board is a participant in ACE, not its sole facilitator, Rivers and Campbell cautioned. The ACE budget is also vetted by the ACE board and approved by the Jasper County School District, they said.

"If we are going to go through this and try to micromanage ACE, then you don't need me at the ACE board at all and I will step back and do whatever I've got to do," Campbell said. "ACE has never been treated this way."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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