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Rock Hill schools find moneymakers

Efforts Rock Hill school officials started to help bring in money in tough times are starting to bear fruit.

In recent months, the district has been selling ads on utility vehicles, auctioning equipment and renting space in buildings - bringing in about $118,000.

While it's not enough to offset several million dollars in budget cuts, Associate Superintendent Anthony Cox said it's a solid start that bodes well for the future.

Here's a look at how the "revenue enhancement initiatives" are doing:

Ads on service vehicles

Rock Hill is believed to be the first South Carolina school district to sell advertising on service vehicles. Cox said the idea came from Gaston County schools in North Carolina.

When the program started, Superintendent Lynn Moody set the target at $60,000. "Our goal is to save a teacher position," she said.

So far Williams and Fudge, Toyota of Rock Hill, Founders Credit Union and Hampton Inn South Park have each bought an ad.

While the district doesn't pay anything up front to Say it Here! Communications for running the program, the marketing company gets 20 percent of each sale.

So far, the district has received $10,000.

The plan originally was to sell ads on school activity buses, but a state law banning marketing on vehicles that carry students thwarted that idea. So Rock Hill turned to its fleet of 40 service vehicles, including utility trucks and small and large vans.

With each vehicle traveling 18,000 to 19,000 miles a year, advertisers get healthy exposure, Cox said.

Each ad features a "positive" message that ties into education. The largest ad sold so far, to Williams and Fudge, displays all schools' teacher of the year.

Online auction

To get rid of surplus equipment and vehicles, the district held a public auction every few years. The last one, marketed with the line "Buy a dump truck, save a teacher," netted about $34,000 from $43,000 in sales.

The difference is the cost of holding the sale, Cox said.

A new agreement with GovDeals.com, an online auction website, "has drastically reduced labor costs as well as garnered higher sale prices," Cox wrote in a report to the school board.

Expenses have dropped 20 percent and sales have brought in more than $38,000. Cox projects that number to reach $80,000 by the end of the quarter, three times the revenue from surplus sales over the last four years.

Renting facilities

Rock Hill schools have longed rented facilities such as District Three Stadium and space in buildings. A consulting firm hired to discover ways the district could save money found that Rock Hill's rental rate was less than what other districts charge.

Evergreen Solutions of Florida told the school board that the annual rental income of $76,000 could potentially be four times that much.

So far, the district has increased the number of rentals from about 18 to 25, amounting to about $68,000. That's expected to reach $203,500 for the school year - nearly three times the annual amount in previous years.

The primary goal of rental charges, Cox said, is to cover expenses such as staffing and energy.

Cox's most ambitious endeavor is a new energy management program he predicts will save more than $400,000 in its first year.

The district hired an energy manager at a annual salary of $65,000, whose job is to curb energy waste across the district's 27 campuses. The manager monitors electricity use and works with teachers, principals and other staff to save energy.

"With the economy the way it is, we need the extra money," school board member Mildred Douglas said.

She hopes the money will continue and become enough to rehire teachers and reinstate cuts made because of shrinking state dollars for education.

School board member Walter Brown said he is particularly impressed with the energy management program.

"This is forward thinking, and we can realize savings from it every year," he said.

Brown credits Cox for finding ways to make the district run more efficiently.

"Tony is a breath of fresh air," he said. "He has looked in and come up with ideas and new ways of doing things that have been an asset."

Cox, who was hired in June 2010 to replace Bill Mabry, oversees the operations and finance departments.

"Our job is basically to serve the kids, the teachers and the public," Cox said. "The mission of that ops side should be better, faster, cheaper and safer."

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