Enquirer Herald

School's budget unchanged

CLOVER -- Not much will change under the school district's proposed budget for 2009-10, now that Gov. Mark Sanford has lost his battle to refuse $700 million in federal stimulus money.

The district will see approximately $1.3 million of that sum next school year, according to Assistant Superintendent Ken Love. The infusion averts a potential disaster, and no staff cuts will have to be made.

But even with the stimulus funding, the district will see less money from state and federal sources than the 2008-09 school year because state law sets the funding baseline for all districts at the 2006-07 level, Love said.

"That's three years of increases that don't count," he said.

Additionally the district is opening two new schools in the coming year, and reorganizing it's entire grade structure. On top of that the assessed value of the Duke Energy nuclear plant in the district declines every year meaning it is paying the district fewer tax dollars each year.

"It makes up about 63 percent of our tax base," Love told the board during it's budget workshop Monday.

Homeowners no longer chip in tax money for the district because the state changed school district funding from owner occupied property taxes to a sales tax two years ago, and with the economy still in recession sales tax revenues are down. And the student body is still growing, though a little more slowly than in recent years.

All that leads to the district needing to increase it's tax rate by the full 6 mils allowed under state law to make up for the declining revenue, and that burden falls squarely on businesses, rental property owners and second homes.

With the tax increase the district's overall budget will likely come in around $56.3 million, up approximately $2.2 million from this year. Approximately two-thirds of that increase will pay for salaries and benefits, and of that, around $510,000 will be eaten up by state mandated 2 percent raises for teachers and staff. The rest will pay the new staff hired to fill the new schools.

Operations costs will also see a significant increase -- approximately $557,000 -- due to the cost of running the new buildings.

The board has yet to vote on the budget.

Options for ATC expansion

The board also heard from architectural firm LS3P at Monday's meeting. The company presented six options for the expansion of the Applied Technology Center at Clover High School.

LS3P gave the board three basic options, each of which could be built at one of two spots on campus. The first option which includes all of the class and workshop spaces the district identified as wants for the expansion -- an agriculture lab, 3-bay auto mechanics shop, HVAC shop, plumbing shop, electrical shop, two engineering shops, four or five business classrooms, a family and consumer science classroom and lab, dining area for approximately 200 people and warming kitchen, an additional staff office and room to add two future shops. At more than 61,000-square-feet, the two story structure comes with a roughly estimated price tag of $14.4 million.

The other options, each with fewer of the wants, come in cheaper, but include either a empty shell for classes and labs on the second floor (at approximately $11.5 million) or by separating the expansion into two phases, and saving the second phase until later (at roughly $12 million for the first phase).

Going with either the second or third option will not free up any space in the existing high school building, which was part of the goal of the expansion. If the board decides to go with the first option some classrooms and labs would leave the high school proper allowing for more athletic space, for programs like wrestling and dance.

If the board chooses an option by late this fall, and it can be bid out by January, the district could begin using the new facilities by the 2011 school year.