Split votes leave school district, ACE budgets undecided

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMay 20, 2014 

  • In other action, the board:

  • Approved the name River Ridge Academy, a mascot called the Raiders and colors of purple, black and silver for the new pre-kindergarten through eighth grade elementary school in Bluffton.

  • Approved the name change of Robert Smalls Middle School to Robert Smalls International Academy in preparation for the school's transitions to a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school in the fall.

With just a week before the Beaufort County School District must present its budget to county council for approval, the school board hasn't decided what that budget should be.

The main point of contention is how much money the board should give to the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.

The board voted twice Tuesday night on the $192 million budget. Both votes failed.

In the first, a motion to reduce the ACE contribution from $2.3 million to $2.05 million failed 5-4.

In the second, the board split 5-5 on a vote to approve the overall budget.

"I think the board is together on every aspect of the budget except for one, and that is the ACE budget," superintendent Jeff Moss said after the meeting. "... and this is an issue the board is going to have to work out among themselves."

The school board hoped to certify the budget Tuesday after delaying certification May 6 because of unanswered questions about ACE.

Most of those questions surrounded how money is spent at the vocational school, with some board members saying not enough is going to the classroom.

Board vice chairwoman Mary Cordray said Tuesday those questions remain unanswered.

Several board members -- Laura Bush, Earl Campbell, Michael Rivers and Paul Roth -- said Tuesday that reducing the amount ACE gets is not the answer.

"Not that I do not have questions and concerns regarding ACE, but this is not the way to get to it," Bush said. "I fully agree that it is time for us to sit down (with the Jasper County school board) and have a frank discussion about the direction we are going with ACE and where we are going with our own (career and technical) programs." Jasper County contributes about $1 million to ACE every year.

Bush, Campbell, Rivers and Roth were joined by JoAnn Orischak in voting against the reduction.

That vote was followed by a motion to approve the overall budget, including the full contribution to ACE. Board chairman Bill Evans, Bush, Campbell, Rivers and Roth voted in favor, while Jim Beckert, Evva Anderson, Geri Kinton, Cordray and Orischak were opposed.

That left the board with no budget to present to county council. The district must present a certified budget to council May 27 for the first of three readings.

The school board has scheduled a special called meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the district office at 2900 Mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort to continue budget talks.

Evans said he understands the importance of reaching a consensus.

"I would like to see us go to the county with a unanimous vote on a budget and if not that, something awfully close to it (to show a united front)," Evans said.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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