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CCSD Budget System Change A Pre-Emptive Strike That Might Miss
2/10/2016 4:56:36 PM

CCSD School Board Member Michael Miller

School advocate Henry Copeland
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston County School District’s plan to go to a new budgeting system may be much ado about nothing until the findings of a forensic audit process implemented last year are reported, says one county school board member.

“We’re trying to see where we can cut the fat,” board member Michael Miller said about Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait’s plan to change the budgeting system from one that’s built on the previous year’s budget to one that starts from scratch.
The district in December presented preliminary audit findings on the causes of its $18 million shortfall. The 2015 budget shortfall includes about $9 million in unbudgeted expenditures and another approximately $9 million in revenue shortfall. 
The findings said the district’s $404 million 2015 budget was overspent by some $8.7 million for such things as teachers and aides salaries, payments to charter schools and an array of administrative costs, benefits payments and support services. Information was not monitored or reported in either a timely or consistent fashion and decentralized decision-making led to budget decisions made without proper clearance or notification. A culture that lacks discipline and oversight was paired with inadequate communications.

As part of her response, Postlewait will implement a different budgeting system. But as some local schools advocates demand accountability from top administrators, Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott has called for county school board chair Cindy Coats’ resignation and impounding former chief financial officer Michael Bobby’s severance pay. Miller says his concern is that district administrators do not force uninvolved employees to shoulder the weight of financial burdens.

To save money the district in 2011 decided to outsource day porter jobs. Schools advocate Henry Copeland said then that the administration consistently sought to defray the cost of operating schools by shortchanging workers who directly impact students while financially rewarding the district’s senior administrators and implementing costly, but ineffective programs.

Copeland said while the district awarded lucrative contracts to companies to provide day porter services, the outsourced employees and their families suffered the loss of pay and benefits they received as employees in the state’s employment system and undue hardship as they were transitioned from school district employees to employees of those companies.

The board has not discussed furloughing any employees, but until the findings of the forensic audit are reported some time in March, determining any action will be difficult, Miller said.

“We need to see where the money went and if there was any excess. We can talk about pre-emptive actions, but we have to see what’s there, what was done, what was not done and where any cuts can be made,” he said.

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