More Tax Hikes
By Alex Saitta
November 28, 2017
I examined the 5-year capital budget recently passed by the school board in a 6 to 0 vote. The school district uses the capital budget to replace things like roofs, HVAC systems, renovate buildings and pay for repaving and repainting schedules. In early 2016 the district administration and school board majority told us this budget didn’t have the money needed for upgrades at AR Lewis and Holly Springs, so those schools had to be closed.
In 2015 the expenditures for the 5-year capital budget were $24.8 million. In 2016 they upped the figure to $33.4 million. In 2017 spending was boosted to $36.7 million and the spending just approved by the board was $39.7 million. We were told the school closings were necessary to save money and balance this budget. It is impossible to save money and balance any budget when spending is ramped up like this. So it is not a surprise this budget’s annual deficits are still running in the $2.5 to $3 million range.
Looking at some of the details, when they decided to reopen AR Lewis for another purpose, they spent $879,000 renovating it. The district just demolished the old BJ Skelton building for $410,000. Next year they plan to spend $710,000 at the old Pickens Middle on God knows what. The old Pickens Middle should be sold. The district doesn’t need another administration building the budget can’t afford.
To plug these deficits, the board and administration are doing two things.
One, they are borrowing more in this budget, growing borrowing from $3.8 million to $5 million a year. That’s on top of the nearly $300 million in outstanding building debt we’ll be paying off until 2032, and the $22 million that is borrowed each year to make the payments on that building debt. All this borrowing generates more interest and bond issuers’ fees, that don’t pay for one textbook or pencil.
Two, the board/ district shifts money from its general fund account to the capital account to help plug the deficit. ($2.4 million was shifted over this year.) By the way, the general fund account is used primarily to fund education expenses from teacher salaries to classroom supplies.
The ramped up spending, additional borrowing, and shifting funds around is why the school board has raised property taxes three times in a row (Sept. 2016, June 2017 and Sept 2017).
You aren’t going read about these “accomplishments” in any school district press release or hear about them from any school board member, but the public should know the rest of the story. Expect another tax increase or two in 2018 as this board continues to show they know how to spend our money, but not manage it.