ACE board doesn't cut budget despite reduced contribution from Beaufort County schools

Despite receiving less funding from the Beaufort County School District -- and with the 2014-15 fiscal year just days away -- the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence board did not cut next year's budget at a meeting Friday.

And it doesn't plan to, according to ACE board chairwoman Alina Hamilton-Clark.

After a board meeting and board workshop, Hamilton-Clark said the vocational school -- jointly operated by school districts in Beaufort and Jasper counties -- plans to operate under the $3.7 million budget it approved in April.

ACE director Dandi Daniels said that if the school runs out of money during the year, she will alert the board.

The board could then decide to use some of the more than $400,000 in its reserve fund or ask Beaufort County schools for more money, Hamilton-Clark said.

ACE asked Beaufort County for about $2.3 million and Jasper County for about $1.2 million. The rest of ACE's budget would be covered by state funding.

However, the Beaufort County Board of Education decided in May to reduce its contribution to ACE by $288,770 to just less than $2.1 million.

The ACE board decided in recent meetings to seek legal counsel to determine if Beaufort County could reduce its contribution. It hired Columbia-based Boykin & Davis to help make that determination and to advise the board on how to work together more effectively.

Attorney Charles Boykin attended Friday's meeting and workshop but made no public presentation regarding the budget. The board met in executive session for about two hours to discuss "employment matters, finance and legal advice."

Boykin said after Friday's sessions that he was not authorized to speak about the budget or offer an opinion about whether Beaufort County was allowed to decrease funding.

"I was disappointed to see that there was not a discussion at the ACE board level with regards to the monies that were approved by both school districts for the 2014-15 year," ACE and Beaufort County board member Jim Beckert said.

Beaufort County school board chairman Bill Evans has said he believes the school district can reduce its contribution, saying such a move is similar to cuts Beaufort County Council made to the district's budget for next year.

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