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 23 consecutive years, the Association of School Business Officials, International’s Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for 22 consecutive years, and a clear audit report with no management letter for 25 consecutive years.
A good steward of taxpayers’ dollars, the district spends 85 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.
Lexington County School District One administrators presented a third reading of the district’s 2018–2019 general fund operating budget at a public hearing held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
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 2018–2019 general fund operating budget at the monthly board meeting that followed the public hearing.
In the final reading of the budget, Lexington District One administrators recommended a $280,561,476 general fund operating budget — an approximate 6.7 percent increase over Lexington District One’s operating budget for 2017–2018 of $262,743,365.
The proposed budget increase of $17,818,111 consists of an increase of $16,045,261 in employee salaries and related costs (a 7% increase) and an increase of $1,772,850 in programs and services (a 5.25% increase).
The projected $280,561,476 in proposed operating expenditures consists of about 87.4 percent salaries and related costs, 7.8 percent for programs and services, and 4.8 percent for utilities and maintenance.
The 2018–2019 budget:
maintains the current student–to–teacher ratio formula per classroom on average;
includes 92.60 new staff positions to accommodate growth (80.60 certified, 8.5 support staff, 3.5 administrative);
includes a step increase for most employees (about $3.3 million);
includes a 2 percent salary increase for certified and support staff, and a 1 percent salary increase for administrative staff (about $4 million);
includes health and retirement increases (about $3 million);
includes funding to meet state and federal requirements;
incorporates an increase in accounts payable to cover inflationary increases in utilities, supplies, materials, property and casualty insurance premiums, and services (about $1.6 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 $9 million from the fund balance ($1.2 million more than last year); and
includes a 4.45 mill increase (about $1.2 million).
District administrators included funding for school safety initiatives in the approved budget, calling the initiatives “Project Hope” because they serve both the emotional and behavioral needs of students.
“Project Hope” includes the addition of a board-certified behavior analyst who provides insight and supervises behavior, three applied behavior analysts who use techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in student behavior, a safety coordinator, six school resource officers for elementary schools, two social workers, seven mental health counselors and a 504 Coordinator.
The state allows districts to increase millage by the Act 388 formula (the percent of growth in school district population and the CPI). For 2018–2019, that formula would allow the district to increase millage by 14.27 mills; however, the district proposed adding only 4.45 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 a 4.45 mill increase, a Lexington District One business owner with a business valued at $100,000 would see taxes increase about $27 ($100,000 X .06 percent assessment rate X additional mills). Each mill brings in about $274,878 in revenue to the district. Lexington District One currently levies 317.95 mills for operations.
Lexington District One’s capital millage (85.3 mills) is only 12 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 85.3 mills for school bonds taxes is offset by a tax credit, meaning that no Lexington District One taxpayer pays the entire 85.3 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 $123 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 operating 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 district employee health insurance, retirement or other benefits. Here are some of the most significant things affecting this budget.
Lexington District 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 remains one of the state’s fastest-growing school districts — growing 5,052 5K–Grade 12 students over the past 10 years. The district currently serves more than 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–Grade 12 average daily membership grew from 24,895 on the 135th day of the 2016–2017 school year to 25,511, an increase of 616 students (2.5%), on the 135th day of this school year (2017–2018).
Currently, the district serves 26,202 students from Prekindergarten through Grade 12 and administrators project a growth of 634 students (2.5%) for the upcoming 2018–2019 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 is appropriate for their level (primary, elementary, secondary, disability status).
Districts continue to be funded by the state at lower levels than the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s formula recommends. According to the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the BSC in 2017–2018 should have been $2,984. Instead, in this academic year (2017–2018), the BSC was budgeted at $2,425, which is below the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s 2007–2008 school year formula ($2,476).
Earlier this year, the BSC was capped at $2,415 because the state under-projected the number of students for the 2017–2018 school year. On May 17, 2018, however, the district learned it would receive $2,425 per student.
Had the 2017–2018 BSC been funded at the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s recommended $2,984 per pupil, Lexington District One would have received an additional $15 million in funding.
In the proposals put forth by the legislature so far for Fiscal Year 2019, the Senate version of the proposed budget includes a BSC of $2,485 per pupil, an increase of $60 per pupil over this year’s BSC of $2,425 per pupil. This is still, however, under the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s recommendation of $3,018 per pupil for Fiscal Year 2019. If fully funded for 2018–2019, the district would receive an additional $15 million.
The proposed 2018–2019 general fund operating budget includes about $4.9 million in state and federal mandates not covered by the state that the district must fund.