FORT MILL -- So now, parents of children in Fort Mill schools realize what those politicians in the General Assembly did when they cut property taxes on homes in favor of a sales tax.
They caused a fight between the tuba player's momma and the quarterback's father.
To get enough cash to hire two more teachers in the fastest growing school district in the state -- and to keep student-teacher ratios low, to keep Fort Mill the place you live because of good schools -- parents in Fort Mill have to pay for their kid to play on the school softball team.
Same for football, baseball, whatever.
You saw a tax bill that dropped by hundreds of dollars, at least. Yet, your child is in middle school or high school. He plays a sport. The school board voted to charge $50 a pop per sport, per kid.
An idea was floated to charge $25 per kid in the band, to help pay for band expenses, but it died on the vine with the school board. Board members squabbled over it, and now band parents are arguing with athletic parents over who should pay what.
This is the real battle now: Having enough money to hire teachers to handle the growing student population. Having somebody to teach your child to read and write and do math. And finding new ways to pay for those teachers.
All that new money -- about $85,000 from the sports fees -- will go to help pay for two more teachers. They will not teach softball.
Fort Mill had that $85,000 and more until the tax scheme changed. It has that money no more. It has about $2 million less this year, and expects even less next year.
"It's just going to get worse, unless something is done about Act 388," said board member Pat White.
Act 388 should be a curse word in Fort Mill.
That statewide reduction in property taxes that made so many of us who live in the Fort Mill district smile -- which was brought about by Act 388 -- turns into a groan at the kitchen table if you have kids in the district like I do.
It means less money, millions less, to hire teachers.
The school district has less money, but it has 10 percent more students this year. Even I know that math doesn't work.
"Reality: We no longer can pay for extras," said board member Michael Johnson, who has tried to tell fellow board members and the public that what is important in Fort Mill is teachers and student results. "The most important thing we do in Fort Mill, better than any school district in this state, is put kids in classrooms and teach them."
But Fort Mill will now have to decide what to charge parents for anything above the bare minimum, so it can pay for enough teachers to fill burgeoning classrooms and the new schools set to open. Band, sports, Model United Nations, Glee Club, field trips, whatever, all face uncertainty without a fee.
Reality in Fort Mill -- where the schools are the lure that bring in people and the meal ticket that keeps people there -- is that student-teacher ratios will go up in the fall.
And reality is that Fort Mill no longer will pay a supplement to new national board certified teachers. Existing teachers make that bonus every year. Think that will affect recruiting new teachers, when some other area districts offer the bonus? Of course it will.
Reality is that Fort Mill schools lived large for years. So voters in the district, in this time of less money for teachers, agreed this spring to raise their taxes to build a football stadium at Nation Ford High School, costing millions, that will be used only a few times a year.
A couple weeks ago I was in Columbia at the Statehouse to do a story. I ran into the third graders from Fort Mill's Springfield Elementary School. A field trip that will undoubtedly be cut or cost more to parents in the future. Those kids waited in the hot sun outside for the Legislature to reconvene. I wish they had brought pickets.
"Throw the bums out!" I wish their signs said.
But they didn't.
They went to watch the laws of this state made. They watched a train, going through a dark tunnel into Fort Mill, about to wreck.