Jasper Co. school board files lawsuit against county council - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Jasper Co. school board files lawsuit against county council

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JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) -

The Jasper County school board is suing county council. They say county council cut their budget, and they have no right to do so.

According to the school board, they are suing county council two reasons -- to get the money back that was cut from their budget and to get the courts to determine who has the right to cut the district's millage rate, the board or the county.

"The lawsuit, if you will, is a friendly lawsuit," said Shelly Murdaugh, a spokesperson for the district.

Councilman Thomas Johnson agrees with the lawsuit. He said he wants the courts to answer the same question.

"We need to get this out of the way," said Johnson. "I anticipate our attorney saying he joins in the request for a declaratory judgment."

Council reduced the tax rate from 172 mills to 166 mills. Because of that, the board's $24.7 million budget was cut by $444,000, leaving the school board with $24.3 million.

Johnson voted for the budget, and he says it wasn't an easy decision.

"It was a very painful decision. I would sell all of the fire trucks and rent out the courthouse if I knew that it would lead to first class education," he said.

There were many reasons for reducing the school board's budget.  According to Johnson, one of those reasons was the drop in the number of students. The district confirmed more than 400 of their 2,800 students transferred to charter schools since the beginning of last year.

The district claims the reduced budget will make it hard for them to be able to meet the educational needs of the county.

For example, the district would not be able to hire more school resource officers for the upcoming school year. They're asking a judge for an injunction that would restore the original budget.

Johnson is confident that council will win the suit.

"The council has overview of all the governmental responsibilities including the school board," he said. 

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