Horry County Schools needs $5 million more for new school supplies

Horry County Schools needs to find another $5 million for the already overbudget school building project, or else the district might have to raise taxes.

Horry County Schools Board of Education approved a contract to build five new schools for $72.9 million more than the original budget in November. The district has already coughed up some of the $240.3 million needed to build the schools, but that money doesn’t cover library books, art supplies and other equipment.

We’ve got some new schools coming online, so there’s going to be some more expenditures in the 2016-17 budget.

Jeffrey Garland, board of education member

The final cost of those supplies is still up in the air, but John Gardner, chief financial officer, said it could be close to $5 million.

“As for art supplies, science lab kits and library books – which are all substantial expenses – we’re still trying to find the funds for that,” Gardner said.

The Board of Education’s finance committee met Wednesday afternoon to discuss budget projections and possible costs for the 2016-17 year. The committee heard requests for about $3.1 million worth of supplies, though none of those expenses includes athletic materials.

Because the new schools are slated to open by August 2017, the district needs to start planning for all the equipment needed for three middle, one elementary and one intermediate school.

What was provided in previous building projects, as far as computers and the like, is not provided in this project.

Edward Boyd, chief officer of accountability and information

The projects’ contracts include allowances for some furniture and technology – about $1.5 million – but it’s not enough to cover everything, Gardner said. Two of the new schools are replacements – Myrtle Beach middle and Socastee elementary – so some things can be moved from there.

But not everything is transferable, said Boone Myrick, chief academic officer.

“With band equipment, students share among classes, so they can’t take it to those new schools,” she said.

The district has to come up with supply money by the beginning of January, and right now there are a few options, Gardner said. Staff could use their general fund balance, hope tax revenues come in better than planned or cut some projects from the short-term facilities plan. The short-term plan includes an expansion at Aynor High School and money for alternative schools, among other things.

Or, the district has to raise mills – which would raise taxes – to pay the bills.

“I think overall we’re going to be OK,” said John Poston, board member. “We’re within 3 percent of our budget, which is great.”

Poston said that though costs involving $1 million or $2 million seems high, it’s a very small percentage of the district’s overall budget. He doesn’t expect a tax increase any time soon, but said the district needs to put its spending in check so staff have a “real life account” of their finances.

$240.3 million Cost to build five new Horry County schools

“These costs are going to find their way into capital funds, and the district needs to look hard into how it’s operating these funds,” he said.

The district could also hope for money left over in the school building contingency fund, which was originally $13 million. That money is used for any offsite work needed at the new schools, so it’s still unknown if anything will be left over, Gardner said.

For now, the board has to wait on final costs to see if revenues match expenses. Jeffrey Garland, board member, said he doesn’t think Horry County residents will be hit with more taxes in the coming years but nothing is set in stone yet.

“I think we’re safe,” he said. “But who can predict the future?”

More than 500 people gathered to protest and support Horry County Schools policy on transgender student bathroom use, and while the board was in executive session a conflict broke out between a policy supporter and protestors. The group occasional

Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN