I-Team: “Nothing is sacred” in CCSD budget cut

The Chair of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees sat down the News 2 investigator Rebecca Collett to explain major budget issues.  CCSD released a preliminary report on the causes of its $18 million dollar budget shortfall Tuesday.  Moving forward, CCSD is expected to make major cuts to their budget.

As we reported earlier this month, the district’s revenues are down $9.3 million, while it overspent by $8.7 million.
The biggest factors in the overspending were teachers and aides for special needs students ($2.5 million), additional teachers due to increased student enrollment ($2.4 million), and additional payments to charter schools ($2 million).

“We need to have every decision talked about in context of the whole budget,” Cindy Bohn Coats, chair, told News 2. “I think that’s the biggest lesson we learned.”

The report cites poor communication, a lack of controls, discipline, and oversight, and the overall culture as the main reasons for the shortfall.  There is little documentation that the Board was appropriately informed or involved in considerations, deliberations, or decisions regarding some changes that may have significantly impacted the budget.

For example, The Innovation Zone Learning Community (IZLC) introduced an extended-year program, with an approved budget of $315,000. The program was then expanded at an additional, unbudgeted cost of $200,000.

There was also a $500,000 penalty from the IRS because the district was late delivering employee W-2 forms in 2011, as well as over-payments to terminated employees.

“It appears to be some small decisions made over the course of several years that has now culminated into a screeching halt,” she explained.

Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait is working with staff, community members, and consultants on new policies and practices and is expected to deliver those to the school board in December.

Coats told News 2 there would be no increase in taxes and no impact on classrooms. She said the Board would take a hard look at special programs.

The audit points out Community Education, which administers the Kaleidoscope program.  Program leaders were asked to become self-sustaining,  The Kaleidoscope program currently carries a deficit balance of $650,000, which reflects $575,000 of support from the General Fund. General Fund support was not budgeted for 2016. This is an example of a program that the District has continued to sponsor without ensuring there are adequate funds to support it.

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