Area 2 school board members Ray Fleming and Keith Liner held a community chat Thursday at Fairview Presbyterian Church.
About a dozen people, including school employees, parents and community members, attended to hear updates about various topics including the Aiken County school district’s budget and the status of school facility renovations.
The school board doesn’t expect cuts to programs or staff under the 2012-13 budget, Liner said.
“We’re not flush with money, but it’s not the money troubles that we’ve had in the previous years,” he said. “I think a lot of that is just because we’re really paying attention to the budget over the last few years, and we try to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and how we’re managing our contingency and reserve funds.”
There will be some changes, though. The South Carolina House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee has proposed increasing the base student cost, which is how much school districts receive per student, from $1,880 to $2,012.
“That $2,012 rate was the way we were funded in the year 2000 and 2001. This is 2012-13 that we’re talking about. That number really should be $2,790” if the state was following the funding plan that it has in place, Liner said.
The district will also have less flexibility. For instance, it won’t be able to implement furlough days unless the state has a budget cut, he said.
Some things that may affect the budget, based on proposals from the house Ways and Means Committee:
• Increase in retirement contributions, about $1.2 million
• Increase in health insurance premiums the employer pays, about $430,000
• Increase charter school allocations, about $275,000
• A 2 percent increase for all employees, about $2.9 million
In February, the school district also approved funding for North Augusta High School’s ninth-grade academy at a cost of $165,000.
A facilities funding committee is exploring funding options that can be pursued to help fund maintaining, renovating or building school facilities. Putting forth a referendum is still an option, Fleming said.
A “serious design” for the plans for North Augusta High School is expected to start during the next budget year, and construction on Phase I is expected to begin the following school year.
In other construction news:
• Jackson Middle School is currently undergoing construction of its new cafeteria and kitchen.
• Ridge-Spring Monetta Middle/High School’s initial design drawing has been approved and construction is expected to start in October.
• The board recently had a second review of the design drawings for Aiken High School. A new classroom wing, which will include science rooms and labs, will be added to the school. Construction is expected to start in July.