Fort Mill Times

Indian Land Cuts force larger classes

Students will see larger classes and a reduced staff when they return to Indian Land schools in the fall.

The Lancaster County School Board was presented with a $76 million budget last week that includes $4.3 million in federal stimulus funds. According to Lancaster County School District Finance Director Tony Walker, if those funds are not received - the money is in limbo pending a legal battle between Gov. Mark Sanford and the S.C. Legislature - "drastic steps will have to be taken to balance the budget."

Even with stimulus funds included in the budget, class sizes will increase throughout the district from a maximum of 22 students per classroom to 24 to 26 students per classroom, Walker said. At least 24 teaching positions that were funded through the general fund will be eliminated either through attrition or by the district not renewing retired teachers' contracts.

The potential net loss of staff is not known, but the number of teachers in Indian Land who will not be offered a new contract could be as low as one.

Retired teachers operate on a year-to-year contract if they return to teaching after official retirement.

Eleven positions funded by special revenue sources, such as grants, will also be eliminated. Most of these positions are in guidance and Advanced Placement instruction. In each case, the revenue source funding the position ran out and the district can't afford to support the position via the general fund budget.

One of those positions is in an Indian Land school, Walker said, though he declined to name the person.

"They weren't guaranteed a job for next year. We ran out of funding. Some of them we will try to find new placement for, but they knew the money was running out," Walker said.

Walker emphasized that no furloughs are scheduled as part of this budget. Furloughs will be considered if stimulus funding doesn't come through, he said. Increasing class sizes again and cutting more positions ar also on the table.

However, "No one has been forced out of a job because of budget cuts at this point," Walker said. "Some retired workers won't be asked back, and we'll see some of that happen over the next two weeks."

No salary increases are included in the budget.

A five-mill increase in the general operating budget was included, which affects personal property and business taxes, but it will be offset by a five mill decrease in debt service millage.

The debt service millage decrease will result in an overall decrease in residential property taxes, which are not subjected to the five mill increase in general operating tax.

Overall, the 2009-2010 budget is $614,737 less than last year's budget, Walker said, accounting for the state budget cuts the district has suffered.

The school board is expected to vote on the budget at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 16.