Horry County schools predict up to $11M budget deficit

Horry County schools predict up to $11M budget deficit

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County School Board Finance Committee predicts a budget deficit for this fiscal year up to $11 million.

However, that number could change depending on what optional expenditures the board decides on.

For example, they said they might cut signing bonuses and future pay raises for some teachers.

School Board Chairman Joe Defeo said it is even more likely that they will use unallocated money in the bank to balance the budget.

"We still have $90 million in the bank, $27 million of which is unallocated and we can use. So, if that's what we have to do we will use that," said Joe Defeo.

He also wanted to make it clear to taxpayers that it is highly unlikely the board will increase taxes.

"There is not one board member that has mentioned raising taxes. And I know other people around me have said, 'Oh, just wait, they're going to raise taxes.' Well, we have 12 board members and not one of them has said they are willing to raise taxes this year," Defeo said. "I do not see any way, shape or form, personally, that we would raise taxes."

Defeo said the finance committee predicts a budget deficit almost every year at this time, and it is not something for the public to worry about. He said in years past, the board has been presented with even bigger deficit numbers, only to turn around and have a year of surplus instead.

"We could see that deficit go completely away, and that's a real possibility," said Defeo.

The school board has until June 30 to vote on the budget. At the Horry County budget retreat this week, council members and police officers discussed a possible change to the funding of school resource officers.

Right now, 50 percent of the SRO cost is paid by both the county and the school district.

However, at the budget retreat, police officers requested that cost split change. The police suggested that 90% of the cost come from the school and 10% come from the county.

Chief Joseph Hill claimed that 90 percent of the officers' work benefits the school district, and 10 percent benefits the county. Thus, those percentages should reflect how much each party pays.

"They do me no good for regular patrol work. I don't have use of them Monday through Friday. They're assigned to the school, and of course if they want to work over time on the weekends. But I can't make them work overtime, so what use is it to me when I'm fighting community challenges," said Chief Joseph Hill.

One council member suggested removing all funding for SRO, but that motion was withdrawn.

"I'm not advocating to take the SROs out of the schools, that's not even something that I brought up. That's what the school board brought up because they don't want to pay that extra money. What I'm advocating for is a fair and equitable compensation for the use of the SROs," Chief Hill said.

The proposal to change the funding to 90 percent from the school district and 10 percent from the county passed the first reading.

It must pass two more readings before any changes go into effect.

The next reading could be as early as April 11 at the Public Safety Committee meeting.

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