CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The Horry County Schools Board's finance committee met Thursday to break down what started as about a $7.7 million shortfall.
"The board charged the finance committee to prioritize that list of the optional expenditures," said John Gardner, chief financial officer for the district. "Of course, optional is the big term on that. The board may decide to do all of them, some of them or decide to do none of them."
Highest on the list to save are the raises for employees, from teachers to cafeteria workers to bus drivers, and at the bottom is the JV lacrosse program.
Progress was made to trim money from some items, taking the total shortage from about $7.7 million to about $6.5 million. However, it still raises the question of how the shortfall got into the millions?
Gardner cited health insurance, the cost of opening the district's new schools, welcoming 741 new students and providing teachers for them, retirements and salary increases as some of the reasons.
When it comes to retirement, Gardner said it comes down to how the state will chip in, through the South Carolina retirement system or directly.
"If they pay us, they have to go through a formula, and when they do that, we get $400,000 less," Gardner said.
While $400,000 may seem like nothing compared to $6.5 million, Gardner said this is a fixed one-percent increase until it caps off at 9 percent. That is money the district will have to take into account for the next several years.
That leaves another big question; where will all of this money will come from?
"You know, they can always go into undesignated fund balance or millage to raise taxes," Gardner said.
He added the challenge will be finding a long-term solution.
"Well certainly we could fund it from the un-fund balance for a year. But the question is, is it sustainable? Gardner said. "And we would have to find a sustainable source in the near future. You could do anything for a year."
Gardner said historically, when it came time to balance out, the district never had to actually use this fall-back fund, even when it was written in to do so.
However, for this 2017-2018 budget, he's not as confident that would be the case and the consequences could be severe.
"Unless we did have a financial plan moving forward to make up for that difference, then yes it could very well have an impact on our credit rating," Gardner said.
The new prioritized list, will be presented to the full board, May 8.