Its budget has been unsettled since May, but the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence now knows how it will fill a nearly $300,000 funding hole.
ACE's board has decided to use its reserve fund to cover a $288,700 reduction in the Beaufort County School District's contribution to the vocational school, which is jointly operated by school districts in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
The board decided in June it would not cut its $3.7 million budget, so programs would not be reduced or eliminated, according to Jasper County School District superintendent Vashti Washington.
"As you know, Beaufort County didn't hold up their part of the bargain with the amount of funding they were supposed to provide," ACE and Jasper County board member Tedd Moyd said Aug. 26. "So ACE had to balance its budget, and the only way we could do that was to go into those excess funds of the reserve."
Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Bill Evans has said that was his board's plan when it decided to reduce its contribution.
According to the legislation that created ACE almost 40 years ago, Beaufort County is responsible for two-thirds of its budget after state funding has been included. Jasper County pays the remaining third.
In April, 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, Beaufort County decided to reduce its contribution by $288,700, which is two-thirds of the roughly $400,000 in ACE's reserve fund -- the amount Beaufort County has contributed to the reserve over the years, Evans has said.
Evans also has said that Beaufort County cannot tell ACE how to form its budget, but the size of the district cut was intentionally set at its contribution to the reserves.
But ACE and Beaufort County school board member Jim Beckert said Thursday the school should have considered trimming administrative costs.
"In the past they said the reserve was used for critical equipment purchases to keep programs running, and I would have liked to keep the funds for that," he said.
Beaufort County reduced its funding in part because of unanswered questions about some expenses and ACE leaders' efficiency, Beckert said. Some board members said too much was being spent on support services -- such as administration, legal costs and maintenance -- instead of in the classroom.
That concern was raised again when the ACE board decided recently to make a human resources position full-time with benefits, although it was budgeted as a part-time position without benefits. The employee will be paid about $50,000 a year, including benefits -- almost double what was originally budgeted, Beckert said.
In her presentation to the board, ACE director Dandi Daniels said she could not handle the human resources workload alone. The part-time position was filled in spring, and after three months, it was made full-time.
Several attempts to reach Daniels were unsuccessful.
Moyd said Tuesday that leftover money from last year's budget will be used to cover the additional personnel expense.
"The fact that the budget was not reduced at all from an administrative standpoint, and in fact, added to, does not serve the students out there well," Beckert said.
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- ACE board doesn't cut budget despite reduced contribution from Beaufort County, June 27, 2014
- Academy for Career Excellence board hires law firm to look into funding cut, June 11, 2014
- ACE board to seek legal advice about budget reduction, May 29, 2014
- School board certifies $192.9M district budget; reduces contribution to ACE, May 22, 2014
- Split votes leave school district, ACE budgets undecided, May 20, 2014
- Board's finance committee recommends rejecting ACE budget, May 13, 2014
- Questions still loom over ACE budget, school board members say, May 6, 2014