Fort Mill students who use school district transportation to attend extracurricular activities might expect to pay an annual transportation fee in the coming school year.
The Fort Mill school board on Monday approved a $68.146 million fiscal 2008-2009 budget, but stipulated the administration present options at its next meeting for charging transportation fees. Board members most specifically discussed transportation costs the district currently pays for high school students to attend extracurricular activities.
A number of figures were thrown around Monday, but board member Michael Johnson pointed out the prevailing rate for other South Carolina schools already charging such a fee is $50 per student.
If Fort Mill does impose user fees, Johnson said he believes it can generate significant revenue.
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"With 2,000 students, a $50 fee would bring in about $100,000," he said. "We could hire two new teachers with that money."We could hire two new teachers with that money."
The budget the board adopted is about $2 million short on income and 13 teachers shy of what's needed to retain small teacher-student ratios. It was adopted unanimously. Board member Martha Kinard was absent. The budget shortfall is largely attributed to Act 388, which has replaced homeowners' taxes to operate schools with a penny sales tax. The sales tax distribution formula considers the state growth rate, not that of individual districts.
The state estimates its population growth this year at 1.8 percent. Fort Mill's school population grew by 10 percent during the same period. It's estimated at 11 percent in the future. School district officials estimate they would have received about $2 million more under the former system. Salaries and fringe benefits comprise about 87.5 percent of district operating expenses, meaning that the student population will continue to grow much faster than the district's ability to hire teachers.
The state education department considers Fort Mill the fastest- growing school district in the state. The district expects to have 930 more students in August than it had in August 2007. The state's fast-growing districts have rallied to seek a change in the formula. State Rep. Carl Gullick, (R-Rock Hill), attended Monday's board meeting and predicted others soon will join them.
"The political momentum will grow quickly," said Gullick, who added that changing the formula to base funding on district growth, not state growth,"will be my main priority next year."
State Sen. Wes Hayes, (R-Rock Hill), also has said he expects the movement to garner support in next year's Legislature. State Rep. Herb Kirsh, (D-Clover), an author of Act 388, also has indicated he would favor changes in the formula based on district growth.
Among items district officials trimmed from the budget was the annual $3,000 bonus for National Board Certified Teachers new to the district.
The district has two new elementary schools scheduled to open in 2009 and usually brings new principals on board the January before schools open for planning purposes. This budget does not include money to bring those two principals on board until July 2009.