FORT MILL --
The Fort Mill School Board approved several one-time payments from money leftover from the 2012 budget, including a $60,000 boost to the organization created to fund middle school sports.
At a Dec. 11 meeting, the board approved a onetime payment of $60,000 to the Fort Mill School District Athletic Board, an organization that grew out of a booster club created to raise money for middle school sports when the district cut the programs from the operating budget.
The board also allocated $25,000 for both Fort Mill and Gold Hill middle schools to buy new band equipment and $50,000 to pay for materials and training for professional development required to meet new state standards.
Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said property tax revenue exceeded what was originally budgeted and that state allocations also were higher because of continued increase in enrollment, leading to a budget surplus.
“With our continued growth, we had extra money come in so the board felt like this was a great use of one-time funds,” Lordo said.
Because this is not recurring money, she said, it would not be appropriate to use the extra revenue to hire additional staff or other expenses that would need to be put into next year’s budget.
“You have to be cautious before you go out and increase your budget with recurring costs because you don’t know that you are going to have that money next year,” she said. “That’s why the board thought this was a great opportunity to provide funds in these areas.”
Fort Mill and Gold Hill middle are the district’s oldest middle schools and have not received new band equipment in 20 years. The district’s other middle schools received new band equipment when they were built. The newest one, Banks Trail, opened last year.
Funding for middle school sports was cut by the school district in 2010. Parents formed an athletic board to keep middle school sports alive in the district but have to raise $60,000 each year to fund the program through fundraisers. Though they’ve never failed to raise the needed funds, the athletic board has never been able to raise enough money to build a cushion.
The $60,000 the board allocated towards middle school sports this week will give the athletic board “some breathing room,” said Lisa McCarley, spokesperson for the Fort Mill School District Athletic Board.
“We are now ahead of the game. We’re not fighting year-to-year. But we certainly can’t rest, but we can plan bigger and better and hopefully improve. We’ve been running extremely tight budgets,” she said.
School board Chairman Patrick White stressed that the funds were a one-time payment and that middle school sports is not going to be added back into the district’s budget anytime soon.
“Until we add back all the regular education programs, I don’t see that happening. We still have reading recovery at every school. There are a lot of things that would have to come back before we would entertain bringing middle school sports on a regular basis,” White said.
McCarley said she is grateful for getting a big portion of the surplus.
“Our school board works very hard on very tight budgets and we know education comes first, but they understand that extracurricular activities make a well rounded student, and this is just the district saying they are helping out as much as they can,” she said.