HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County School District spent more than half-a-million dollars on travel expenses from April to June, according to the district’s monthly expense reports.
WMBF Investigates sorted through expenses to find in the last three months of the 2018-19 school year, employees’ flights, hotels, rental cars and conferences were paid for across the county including in Chicago, Boston, Tampa and New Orleans.
“We do have travel requirements for some of our staff. We are the largest employer in Horry County with almost 6,100 employees, and a lot of those are teachers, but we do require travel for employees like most businesses,” school district spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said. “We have in-district travel, which is mainly made up of mileage reimbursement as well as out-of-district travel.”
Out-of-state travel accounted for 82% of travel expenses during the three months. The school district spent around 17% on in-state travel and just 1% on in-district travel.
Over half of the travel expenses listed were paid for out of the district’s general fund. Other funding sources listed included the food service fund, athletics, Title I and Santee Cooper.
The district website states that employee requests for out-of-state and in-district travel must be approved.
Bourcier said once approved the district uses the standard government per diem rates from the U.S. General Services Administration for meal and mileage reimbursements.
“We do require some of our employees to continue certification requirements for conference training. Not only is that for teachers, but we also do it with our counselors, we do have school nurses, registered nurses within our schools that require that additional training as well as safety and security personnel,” said Bourcier. “So we do have quite a bit of travel within our school system.”
Based on vendor descriptions, WMBF found teachers had travel expenses related to:
- The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia in June
- The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) conference in Boston in June
- The South Carolina Education & Business Summit in Greenville in June. A conference geared toward career and technology learning and preparing students for college and careers.
- Project Lead the Way (PLTW), an organization that “provides transformative learning experiences” for teachers and students and offers summitts throughout the year.
- Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), an organization focused on middle school educators
- The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA)
WMBF found the top expenses were:
- $14,985 to the “APL APPLE ONLINE STORE” in April
- $11,542 to Hotels.com in May
- $10,725 to the Avid Center in April
- $7,388 to Connections Housing in June
- The company’s site explains it provides housing services at events and meetings.
- $5,790 to “We Know It” in May
- The website We Know It states it is an information technology education and consulting firm in Columbia.
The district also reimburses employees for gas and keeps those expenses separate from its monthly expense reports.
Horry County Schools spent an additional $85,863 on gas, according to its Mansfield Oil Card statements for April, May and June.
Bourcier explained the travel is often for development of the district’s staff and benefits students.
“It’s all the benefits of bringing back all the knowledge, everything that is new and trending out there and be able to bring it back to our students,” she said.