Judge to decide if Dillon County must give money to school district

DILLON, SC (WBTW) – The Dillon County attorney went head to head with the school board and county treasurer’s attorney in a hearing over whether the county budget is legal.

Thursday’s hearing comes after the county decided not to give the Dillon County School District any money from the county’s budget, money the district says it needs to repay a $60 million bond.

Dillon County Treasurer Jamie Estes took the stand first. She wants a judge to determine if the county budget approved in June and the supplemental budget approved last month are legal. Neither includes money for schools.

The attorney for Estes, Charles Curry, argued the original budget was not properly approved and did not include about $319,000 a year for schools, which, he claims, was approved in a 1995 bond referendum agreement.

“Was there a motion to change the budget from the second to third reading?” questioned Curry in the courtroom.

Dillon County attorney Rob Tyson argued county council members approved a revised budget to correct what was wrong with the first budget. He also presented the ballot from 1995 and questioned if it included the schools.

“Did the referendum say anything about a 50/50 split?” asks Tyson.

“No,” responds Dillon School District 4 Superintendent Douglas Ray Rogers, “but they (the public) were informed.”

Three different witnesses said the 1995 ballot does not include the schools, while State Rep. Jackie Hayes said it is implied in the wording.

“I can perceive that funding for county operations could mean the Dillon County Board of Education,” says Rep. Hayes.

“But does it say it will be used for the schools?” argued Tyson.

“No sir,” responds Rep. Hayes.

The Dillon County School Board attorney Paul Porter focused on how important the money is to repay debt. He introduced notes from a council meeting where council agreed to join the school board with the bond.

“After the discussion, it appears there was a motion to work with the school board to get the LOST bond,” states Former Dillon Clerk to Council 1995 Lisa Gray.

Dillon County Board chair Richard Schafer took the stand. He said the schools have 30 more years to repay debt. He says if the money is taken from the county, it will harm schools and taxpayers.

Friday will be the second day of the hearing. The judge is expected to make a ruling on whether the county must hand over the $319,000 to the school district.