Members of the Chesterfield County School Board will consider raising the millage as budget deliberations begin next month. Chesterfield County Superintendent Harrison Goodwin suggested Monday evening during the board meeting at Plainview Elementary School the board procure a short term bond of $1 million in 2013-14 to address technology and maintenance issues before they become bigger problems.
“Selling this bond will impact debt service millage for the next two years,” said Goodwin. “This impact would be in addition to the additional mills that are due to be assessed for debt service.”
Goodwin said so much needs to done to bring the schools’ technology programs up to par that $1 million divided between that, maintenance and security, will only scratch the surface. It was 2003, said Goodwin, the last time any paint was applied to a Chesterfield County School building.
“These funds will not solve our technology and maintenance issues,” said Goodwin. “This is an effort to buy some additional time while we try to look at other financial options in the future.”
Chesterfield County has also suffered the loss of a number of students, causing the cost per student to increase for the coming budget year. According to W. Brad Willard, chief financial officer for the school district, the State of South Carolina suggests the county adopt a millage increase of 3.6 mils.
“This is what they (the state) said we should consider,” Willard told the board. “Based on the twelve-month average Consumer Price Index increase of 2.07 percent and the population change of -1.08 percent in the Chesterfield County School District, the percentage cap on the millage rate increase is 2.07 percent,” said Willard. “A 2.07 percent increase equals about 3.6 mills or about $360,000 in new, recurring revenue to the Chesterfield County School District budget.”
“If we don’t do something, at some juncture, it’s going to cost more down the road to deal with these issues,” said Goodwin. “It’s time to fish or cut bait.”
Goodwin reminded the board of its decision last fall to refund a bond, which resulted in a drop of the interest rate by 2.5 percent. “Our next opportunity to refund a bond will come in 2016,” he said. “Currently, the interest rate on that bond is between 4 and 5 percent with an outstanding balance of over $21 million. If the interest market stays somewhat competitive, we should be able to realize a substantial savings if we refund the bond at that time.”
Goodwin asked the board to “pursue a capital bond that would be used to address some of the needs noted earlier.” The money, he said, would be used over a two year period and be paid back in the same amount of time.
“This would allow us to address some of the most critical needs while we wait to see the outcome of our next refunding opportunity. Interest rates are at an all-time low and it would be our expectation that the rates would come in at 1 percent or below for the bond.”
Goodwin’s proposed expenditures would invest $300,000 in campus security cameras. As there are currently five of the county’s 100 buses that are equipped with a security camera, he suggests spending another $150,000 for bus security cameras. He would set aside $350,000 for deferred maintenance, and $200,000 for technology infrastructure.
“Most of our infrastructure is circa 2005 and was put into place before wireless technologies, online assessments, and interactive distance learning were a reality,” said Goodwin.
No decision was made on the request, as budget hearings will begin in May. The next school board meeting will be May 13, at 5:30 p.m. at the Palmetto Learning Center in Chesterfield.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.