Beaufort County Council ignored Article X, Section 7(B) of the state constitution when approving the Beaufort County School District budget for fiscal year 2011.
The constitution provides that whenever the ordinary expenses of a political subdivision or school district exceed its income, the governing body shall provide for levying taxes in the ensuing year sufficient, with other sources of income, to pay the deficiency of the preceding year.
For the year ended June 30, the school district's general fund expenses exceeded income and revenue transfers by $1.3 million.
County Council approved the budget with comments about the district's good job. But it failed to fund the budget without raiding the emergency reserve. County Council Finance Committee chairman Stu Rodman stated a 10 percent emergency reserve was adequate for the schools, while the county's is 20 percent. The county forecast the school district would collect 98.6 percent of taxes billed, while the county budget counted on 97 percent.
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Rodman previously led the school board's Finance Committee for a short time. Under his leadership, the school tax rate increase was 14.2 mills -- the largest in recent history.
Our legislators should grant fiscal autonomy to the school district. Voters can replace board members. Act 388 limits local governments and school district tax increases to the rate of inflation and growth. This should make the decision to give the district fiscal autonomy quite simple. Autonomy is the only way to reduce the discord over the school budget each year.
Jim BequetteLady's Island