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No. 7: Public education has to do more with less

Schools throughout the township felt the pinch of a tight budget in 2009.

The cause of the township's budget woes stemmed in part from Act 388, the legislation that replaced residential property taxes with a statewide sales tax increase to fund public education. Cuts in state funding to the districts were made because of a decrease in state sales tax income, and the Fort Mill and Lancaster County school districts were left to reconcile their budgets with the deficit.

Federal stimulus funds – money that was in doubt until state lawmakers took Gov. Mark Sanford to court to force him to accept it – trimmed the Fort Mill School District's $4.7 million budget shortfall to $2 million. The funding saved the Fort Mill schools system from requiring furloughs for teachers and administrators and also allowed the district to provide raises to teachers.

Due to the budget shortfall, athletic fees increased from $50 to $75 and the district lost nine employees, including two middle school teachers and three media assistants.

The budget problems also impacted Banks Trail Middle School, the newest middle school in the Fort Mill School District. Scheduled to open in August 2010, the school board voted on Dec. 17 to delay the school's opening.

In Indian Land, state cuts to the Lancaster County School District caused the district to operate on a budget that was $614,737 less than last year's budget, even with an added $4.3 million in stimulus funds.

The district managed the decrease in the budget by increasing class sizes and reducing staff, including a popular part-time health teacher at Indian Land Middle School and a guidance position that was previously funded through a grant.