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The new Orangeburg County School District could have a budget of $133.6 million in its first year of operation.

Some of the budget details have not yet been finalized, including the amount the district is getting from the state. Lawmakers are still developing the state’s budget.

"There are a lot of decisions that have not been made on the state side yet," District Chief of Finance Michael Thom said.

The Orangeburg County School District Board on Tuesday unanimously gave first reading approval to the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The proposed budget projects revenues of $133.6 million and expenses of $138 million, for a $4.4 million loss. But Thom says a shortfall is not a concern at this point in the budget’s development.

"It is very normal for a district to have a variance at this point when they go through the budget," Thom told trustees. "Don't be alarmed about that."

"We are hoping to work through that," he said. "Hopefully, our revenues will increase and our expenses will go down. That is our whole intent."

As it stands now, Thom said the district is projecting about $48.6 million in revenue will come from local sources and about $75.8 million from state sources. The remaining money will come from other financing sources, such as transfers.

Of the $138 million in expenditures, about $66.9 million is for instruction and $67.2 million is for support services.

Thom said the budget does not take into consideration a tax increase. By state law, the district can’t raise taxes any more than 2.44 percent.

Thom said there are some things already known on the state level. For instance, the base starting salaries for teachers is increasing to $35,000 and there will be a 4 percent salary increase for teachers.

Step increases or employee raises are the responsibility of the county to provide, Thom said.

Thom noted the student base cost for the district is projected to be about $2,487 with the district expected to see about 11,900 students.

"Your index of taxpaying ability shows the Orangeburg new school district ranked 19th in the state," he said. "The previous three districts ranked in the 30s. We are stronger as one. That goes directly into our funding when they increase base student cost."

Thom said a more detailed budget will be provided to the board at future meetings.

The second reading of the budget with a public comment/public hearing period will be held May 28 and third and final reading is expected to occur at the June 11 board meeting.

In other matters, trustees unanimously hired Jerome Davis to serve as the district's director of certified staff, and Loretta Gadson-Washington to serve as the district's director of classified staff.

Ten new teachers were hired and one contract was renewed.

In other business:

• Interim Superintendent Dr. Zona Jefferson noted five legal agencies submitted proposals to provide the district with legal services. She said the agencies will come before the board in the near future.

• Jefferson presented board members a list of administrative salary ranges for review. The matter will be presented at the next board meeting.

• Jefferson said she and some school district leaders met with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College President Dr. Walt Tobin about a partnership between the district and the college so students will be able to receive college credit while in high school if they take certain courses.

These courses include advanced manufacturing, health care, construction, information technology, transportation, distribution and logistics and hospitality.

A bill in the S.C. General Assembly would aim to provide some funds for students taking these courses.

• Jefferson said the new district received $110,250 from Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3 and $150,000 from OCSD5 to go toward the district's consolidation process.

• Trustees unanimously approved a 240 work day employee calendar for the 2019-2020 school year.

• The board unanimously answered the out-of-district release request for seven students. The vote will allow the students to remain in the same schools they are in currently when the district is consolidated.

"We do not want to disrupt their school attendance," Jefferson said.

• The next meeting of the OCSB is scheduled for Tuesday, May 28 at the Nix Elementary School cafeteria on Stilton Road in Orangeburg. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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