Lexington One maintains a strong financial position. The district’s bond ratings, confirmed in September 2013, are Aa1 and AA- by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings services.
The district has received the Government Finance Officers Association’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 18 consecutive years, the Association of School Business Officials, International’s Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for 19 consecutive years, and a clear audit report with no management letter for 24 consecutive years.
A good steward of taxpayers’ dollars, the district spends 86 percent of its general fund operating budget on instruction and instructional support (salaries and related costs), 2 percent for program and district management, and 12 percent for operations (utilities, maintenance). The district’s money goes to instruction — with only 2 percent spent on district leadership and 5 percent on school leadership.
Because we are funded by taxpayer dollars, our budget for the 2016–2017 fiscal year is available for Lexington County residents to see the full breakdown of our expenditures.
Lexington County School District One administrators presented a third reading of the district’s 2017–2018 general fund operating budget at a public hearing held on Tuesday, June 27, 2017.
The general fund operating budget provides funding for the day-to-day operations of the district such as paying salaries, insurance and utilities, and purchasing supplies, materials and services. This is not to be confused with the district’s capital budget which funds fixed assets such as facilities and equipment.
The Lexington County School District One Board of Trustees approved the district’s 2017–2018 general fund operating budget at the monthly board meeting that followed the public hearing.
There were changes from second to third reading. In the third reading of the budget, Lexington District One administrators recommended a $262,743,365 general fund budget.
Lexington District One administrators added a one percent salary increase for all employees at a cost of $1,717,489, 10 more teacher pool positions for first and second grade student to teacher ratio reduction at a cost of $710,180, 3.5 other pool positions at a cost of $248,564, one assistant principal at a cost of $95,744, $24,000 for 4-year-old kindergarten supplies and reduced the budget by $4,760 in a change to the number of contract days for a floating nurse and by $14,000 in the area of dual credit textbooks.
The $262,743,365 general fund budget is a 7.3 percent increase over Lexington District One’s current operating budget for 2016–2017 of $244,815,426 and includes a recommended increase of $14,868,050 in employee salaries and related costs (6.9% increase) and an increase of $3,059,889 in programs and services (9.9% increase). The projected $262,743,365 in proposed operating expenditures consists of about 87.1 percent salaries and related costs, 7.8 percent for programs and services, and 5.1 percent for utilities and maintenance.
The 2017–2018 general fund budget:
includes funding to meet state and federal mandates and requirements;
includes an increase to cover inflationary increases in utilities, insurance, supplies, etc.
includes 54 new staff positions to accommodate growth and reduces 16.5 elementary Digital Learning Coaches in an effort to prioritize class size, ensure manageable elementary student to teacher ratios and maintain the current student to teacher ratio formula per classroom on average (42.8 certified, 10.2 support staff, 1.0 administrative);
includes a 1% salary increase for all employees (about $1.7 million);
includes a step increase for most employees (about $3.4 million);
includes health and retirement increases (about $3.6 million);
includes an increase in the amount of money the district is paying for Lexington County School Safety Officers at elementary schools;
transfers allowable costs to capital funds;
budgets $7.8 million from fund balance ($500,000 more than last year); and
includes an 11.96 mill increase (about $3.1 million)
The state allows districts to increase millage by the Act 388 formula (the percent of growth in school district population and the CPI). For 2017–2018, that formula would allow this district to increase millage by 11.96 mills, and the district proposes adding those mills to fund the budget as it currently appears.
Since Act 388’s implementation in fiscal year 2007–2008, operating millage is not added to owner–occupied homes but is added to businesses, automobiles, etc. With an 11.96 mill increase, a Lexington One business owner with a business valued at $100,000 would see taxes increase about $72 ($100,000 X .06 percent assessment rate X additional mills). Each mill brings in about $259,294 in revenue to the district. Lexington One currently levies 305.99 mills for operations.
Lexington One’s capital millage (78.3 mills) is only five more mills than it was in 2008 when taxpayers approved the last bond referendum. Each year, because of the one-cent sales tax generated by the Lexington County School District Property Tax Relief Act, a portion of that 78.3 mills for school bonds taxes is offset by a tax credit meaning that no Lexington District One taxpayer pays the entire 78.3 mills, no matter what type of property tax.
In fact, a Lexington District One resident with an owner-occupied home valued at $100,000 pays about $117 a year in total school taxes of any kind (general fund and capital) on that home.
Many things impact a school district’s general fund budget each year — student growth, student to teacher ratios, tax collection rates, property tax relief, changes in other revenue from state and federal government, program needs, mandates such as increases in the cost of the district employee health insurance, retirement or other benefits. Here are some of the most significant things affecting this budget.
Lexington One is the largest school district in Lexington County - geographically and in student enrollment. The district is 360 square miles (much still undeveloped) while Lexington County is 701 square miles.
The district also remains one of the state’s fastest growing school districts — growing 5,327 students over the last 10 years. The district currently serves about 25,600 students from prekindergarten through grade 12 and continues to see significant growth in new homes along with a corresponding influx of new students.
The district’s 5K–G12 average daily membership grew from 24,418 on the 135th day of the 2015–2016 school year to 24,895, an increase of 477 students (2%) on the 135th day of this school year (2016–2017).
Administrators project a growth of 562 students (2.3%) for the upcoming 2017–2018 year.
South Carolina’s main funding mechanism for schools is the “Base Student Cost,” part of the Education Finance Act (EFA) approved in 1977. This legislation was intended to provide each student with instruction that was appropriate for their level (primary, elementary, secondary, disability status).
Districts continue to be funded by the state at lower levels than the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s formula recommends. According to the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the Base Student Cost in 2016–2017 should be $2,933. Instead, in this academic year (2016–2017), the BSC was budgeted at $2,350, which is below the B South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s 2006–2007 school year formula ($2,367). Had it been funded at the $2,933 per pupil amount it would have resulted in an additional $15.5 million in funding for Lexington District One.
In the proposals put forth by the legislature so far for Fiscal Year 2018, the Base Student Cost is projected to be $2,400 per pupil, an increase of $50 per student over this year’s BSC of $2,350 per pupil. This is still, however, under the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s recommendation of $2,984 per pupil for Fiscal Year 2018.