In pitching her plan to cut $6.7 million in spending next school year, Superintendent Lynn Moody asked Rock Hill school board members to consider tapping district reserves to help.
Consider they did.
In interviews, board members offered a bevy of uses for reserves, some of which go beyond the scope of what Moody suggested.
Board members want to spend the money to avoid some of the superintendent's proposed budget cuts.
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"I hope we can work around having to furlough anyone and work around taking teacher supply money," school board member Walter Brown said.
Mildred Douglas wants to reinstate annual employee raises.
Ginny Moe wants to use reserves to prevent employee layoffs.
Moe, Jane Sharp and Jim Vining want to save Parent Smart, a parent-assistance program that gets medical help to low-income families, books to mothers of newborn babies and support to teen moms.
"If we can spend some of the fund balance to minimize losses that we were going to turn around in two years and put back, then we should," Vining said.
The seven-member board is expected to decide tonight what parts of Moody's plan - which would cut $6.7 million out of an anticipated $122 million budget - the district should use when budgeting for the 2011-2012 school year.
The district's reserve fund - also known as a fund balance or "rainy-day fund" - is the money left over each fiscal year after a district pays all of its bills. Districts bank the annual overages, which come in handy when unforeseen costs arise.
Credit rating agencies assess reserves when assigning school districts a credit score. A healthy cushion tends to earn a higher rating, which can mean lower interest rates when districts borrow money.
Rock Hill schools ended the 2009-2010 school year with roughly $17 million in reserves.
Moody presented her "financial crisis plan" earlier this month. It includes 12 key cuts projected to save about $5 million and a list of efforts started this school year expected to save $1.25 million.
To make up for the rest, Moody has asked the board to consider relying on reserves or raising taxes by about 1 percent on all properties except owner-occupied homes.
An owner of a retail business or a rental house valued at $100,000 would pay roughly $12 more in property taxes for school operations. State law exempts owner-occupied homes from taxes that pay for school operations.
Moody also asked the board to consider reinstating annual employee raises, which were suspended for this school year.
State money for schools has been shrinking for the last three years as sagging sales tax revenues leave gaping holes in South Carolina's state budget.
School officials also trace the shortfall back to 2007, the first year Act 388 substituted a sales tax for part of the property taxes that had historically paid for schools. The law also caps at 15 percent the amount residential property can increase in value between reassessments.
The bulk of Moody's spending cuts would come from eliminating about 50 jobs and slashing some employees' pay.
While it's not clear how the board will vote tonight, six members want to tap reserves rather than adopt Moody's plan as-is. School board member Ann Reid couldn't be reached Friday.
Norwood, Brown and Sharp want to dip into the fund balance to avoid sending employees on unpaid leave. Moody recommended two days of furlough for teachers and four for all other employees.
State law requires districts that furlough teachers must send other employees on leave for twice as long.
Douglas wants to avoid hurting Head Start, a national program for preschoolers from low-income homes. Moody's plan would charge the organization more to use one of the district's buildings.
The group has been paying $1 a year and Moody expects renegotiating could generate more than $30,000 a year for the district.
"If we shortchange them, we will see the effects five to 10 years down the road when students come to school unprepared," Douglas said.
The board members said they plan to discuss their concerns tonight.