It was a unanimous vote that passed the first reading of the school district's budget not to increase millage for operations.
First reading of the 2005-2006 budget was delayed due to a flaw in the software used to calculate budgets statewide, causing a $73,000 overvaluation in employee fringe benefits. The recalculated budget was presented at a special board meeting Monday.
Chesterfield County School District Superintendent John E. Williams and Judy Watson, director of finance for the district, presented a balanced budget of $45,254,654.15 for operations only. That means no increase in millage for operations.
However, the debt service millage would increase from 2.88 to 8 mills. This is an increase of 5.12 mills taxpayers could see on their tax bills in October if the budget is passed.
Debt service money comes from tax dollars and is used to pay toward debt incurred for new facilities or building programs. The board can raise the millage rate up to 8 percent of the property in the school district without consent from taxpayers.
According to Williams, the debt service millage has not kept up with inflation in the district. He said with the economy down and enrollment increasing in Chesterfield County, it becomes necessary to increase the debt service millage.
Williams said the board is working closely with its attorney to assure that they do not raise that percentage more than is needed.
Also, in the coming weeks the operations budget may have to be reevaluated when the district learns whether it must meet matching funds for any monies received for education. Because of a slowed economy and state budget crunches, state and districts have been allowed to forego this Equal Finance Act federal requirement in recent years.
In May, the S.C. Senate version of the budget deletes the provision that allows that foregoing. Williams said the district should know whether or not it will face this shortfall in the next week or so.
For more information, please read the May 26, 2005 edition of the Cheraw Chronicle/Chesterfield Advertiser.