Enquirer Herald

Clover schools approve spending plan, no tax increase

The Clover school board approved a $63.8 million spending plan that would expand Blue Eagle Academy, launch an elementary school tutoring program and add nine jobs to existing programs with no net tax increase.

In a separate vote, the board also approved a $10.3 million capital project package that includes completing the ongoing renovations at Clover High School, renovating high school computer labs, adding a $5 million office/entrance area at Crowders Creek Elementary School and buying new band uniforms.

Finance director Ken Love said the capital projects won’t require the district to borrow money. “This would be paid for out of money that has been set aside over the past few years,” he said.

The school board approved both plans unanimously and without any discussion.

In approving the school operating budget, the board approved an increase in property taxes along with an equal reduction in taxes for its debt service — which will mean no net tax increase on businesses, Love said.

The cut in taxes for debt service, however, will mean a reduction in taxes for owner-occupied homes that amounts to about $24 for each $100,000 of asssessed home value, he said.

Under Act 388 – which took effect in 2007 – South Carolina changed the way its public school systems are funded, adding a one-cent sales tax and exempting owner-occupied homes from property taxes that pay for school operations. Owner-occupied homes continue to pay taxes for debt service.

Love said Clover was able to reduce taxes for debt service because it has paid off some of the bonds sold to borrow money for renovations at the high school and for a large expansion at the adjacent Technology Center. Both those projects have been completed within the past year.

He noted that said state funding for education hasn’t yet been approved by the Legislature, but that the spending plan is based on what school districts across the state expect to receive.

When the budget was introduced to board members during a public hearing earlier this month, Clover Superintendent Marc Sosne said many of the program increases have been discussed for years.

“But it was not the time to do them,” he said.

However, Sosne and Love have said that said because the Clover district has carried budget surpluses for the past several years, leaders are ready to expand some of Clover’s programs.

Increases in base costs include $1.5 million more for salaries – including a 2 percent cost of living increase and a 2 percent step increase for eligible employees – as well as $95,000 more for band, chorus and athletic programs to help with ongoing costs, including the addition of a lacrosse program.

Program enhancements include:

$475,000 for nine positions across the Clover district, including a dance teacher to begin a dance program at Clover High School; an academic assistant position at Bethany Elementary; two teaching assistants at Crowders Creek Elementary; two teachers at Clover Middle; two maintenance technicians; and an English position at Clover High.
$300,000 to expand Clover’s Blue Eagle Academy — a behavior intervention program that serves students in grades five and up — to add grades three and four. The expansion includes two teachers, a guidance counselor and a behavior intervention specialist. $300,000 for up to five additional teaching positions for enrollment growth. $200,000 to launch an after-school tutoring program at the elementary schools to help students who are identified by teachers and administrators as needing academic assistance. Sosne said the free program would be held three times a week, from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m., and transportation would be provided to bring students home. $30,000 to contract athletic trainer services for middle schools, mostly during after-school practices and games. $70,000 for salaries to bring six existing computer training positions at elementary schools up to a higher competency level, between an instructional aide and a teacher.

The capital projects approved by the board include $4 million to complete renovations at Clover High School, including upgrades to science labs. That project is expected to be completed this summer.

The board also approved $5 million to consolidate the office and entrance area at Crowders Creek Elementary. The design is in progress. If a contract is approved later this year, it could be complete in August 2013.

Other approved capital projects include $500,000 for new school activity buses, $100,000 for more security cameras; $200,000 for parking lot repairs; $350,000 for a renovation of Clover High computer labs; $30,000 to replace school furniture; $30,000 to replace windows at the district office; $75,000 for new high school band uniforms; and $55,000 for new furniture in the Bethel Elementary library.