Budget Cuts Could Hit Beaufort County Schools Hard

Some changes in the works might just cost you money, and affect your child's education. If South Carolina lawmakers don't change the budgeting formulas, Beaufort County stands to lose almost $7 million this year. The school year is wrapping up for students in Beaufort County, but the budget war is just beginning for school officials.

"At this point, we're not even maintaining what we have," said Dale Friedman, chair of the school board. "We have cut back so much on infrastructure that we're down to the bare bones."

And things could get worse if the state's plan is adopted.

"Before we even start this year, we'll be at 6.9 million, that doesn't account for inflation or growth and we expect to grow by 500 students," said Friedman.

And this year the cuts could hit the classroom. "There comes a point where there's no way not to hit the classroom," said Friedman.

That's because the state has shifted its budgeting formulas and is allocating money based on property values. "Under the state's formulas for schools, when property values for the county goes up, the index shows we're a wealthy county and our reimbursement goes down," explained county councilman Mark Generales. "Full funding is $2,300. Beaufort is being given 300 because the state views property as wealth."

But here's the kicker. Nearly 50 percent of Beaufort County students financially qualify to receive free and reduced lunches at school, which means many families can't afford to pick up the burden the state is forcing upon them.

"Just because property values have gone up doesn't mean they have more cash flow to work with," said Generales.

Beaufort County and Charleston County are the only two counties in the state that are being hit hard this year by these changes. School and county officials have been talking with local lawmakers to help make ends meet this year but, nothing has been worked out.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com