Dillon County Council considers cutting school district funds

DILLON, SC (WBTW) – Things were heated at the Dillon County Council budget public hearing Wednesday night. The school district will receive less money from the county at $150,000 for the first time in almost 20 years.

Dillon County Board of Education Chairman Richard Schafer has been on the board for 29 years. He said he was there when the county and school district approved a resolution to split the 1 cent sales tax repayment cost.

“I was there. I was present at all of these negotiations. I was present at all of the agreements,” said Schafer. “This referendum says the county part of the distribution will be divided equally between the County and the County School Board with all proceeds being used for building replacement or repair only.”

Schafer said in 1996, taxpayers voted for a $1.6M dollar tax reduction on property taxes, a new jail and an agreement for the county and school board to equally to repay debt while rebuilding, replacing or renovating schools.

The school board said for the past 18 years they have received equal payments from the county. For example, last year the district received $319,000 thousand dollars if county approves the change the school district will consider raising taxes.

Schafer said, “I debt service has to be maintained or the faith and credit of the county school system will fail. We would have to pass a five mill tax increase to the voters who voted in 1996 for a tax relief.”

The Dillon County Auditor, Kay McKenzie said increasing the millage rate by five mills will increase a:

  • $50,000 property tax by $15
  • $100,000 property tax by $30
  • $2 million dollar Business tax by $1,050

The changes will not only increase taxes but also stop growth within the school district. Schafer said the schools in the county are much older some date back to 1996 but with the bond they have been able to:

Phase one:

  • Rebuild Dillon Middle School
  • Replace ball field

Phase two:

  • Rebuild Lake View Elementary
  • Latta Elementary

Tentative Phase 3:

  • Consolidate three elementary schools in District 4
  • Build or renovate Latta Middle and/ or High school
  • Undecided on Lake View project

“This impacts our education system tremendously, if we do not replace the $300,000 plus dollars. We are going to have to phase out phase three,” he said.

County Council Chairman Archie Scott said since 2008, when he joined council, the budget did not include money for the school district including last year’s budget.

“It is not reflected in the past budget that they get $319,000. If they are getting the money we have not voted to give them anything,” said Scott.

Council believes the agreement in 1996 was a ‘handshake deal’ and there are no meeting notes to back up the approved agreement.

“I have looked at the resolution that was passed back in the day does not have any language concerning the schools. I don’t see how they can make that claim,” Scott said.

During the public hearing, Scott told the school district representatives including a current student if they want to dispute the council they should seek legal action.

“We are not a court. If they have an issue then they need to get them an attorney and file the necessary papers with the court system. Let’s iron this out,” said Scott.

Schafer said he is already building his case. He has the notes from the resolution. He also received the auditor reports to back up the school district.

Council members hope to have a balanced budget and serve the people in the county. The current budget is $18M dollars.

News13 received copies of the 2016- 2017 budget there was no amount for the school district. Richard Gaddy, Finance Director for the County says although there is no line item the school district did receive $319,628 last year.

A special meeting to review the budget will be held Friday at 9am.

Also, Scott says he plans to look into how school board officials are appointed instead of elected in the near future.