The Charleston County School Board wants more information before voting on a budget for the coming school year. That’s an indication that members aren’t going to approve a tax increase unless they’re convinced it’s necessary. Good. The board was not elected to be a rubber stamp for the district’s administration.
Without a tax hike, the district’s budget would increase by 6.6 percent to $380 million. Superintendent Nancy McGinley wants $398 million.
Board member John Barter said he needs to work through how costs grew from $357 million to $380 million before he could consider going even higher.
The board should have a clear understanding of where the district spends money. What programs have produced optimal results — and what programs haven’t? Has the district has reduced or eliminated funding accordingly this year? What cost-saving efficiencies have produced dividends?
A budget the size of the school district presents complicated issues that demand time for administrators to present and board members to grasp. Workshops for board members have not been well attended, and that is a disappointment.
Still, board members need to be fully up to speed in order to make an informed decision on the budget. That’s a tall order with the prescribed schedule — June 10 for first reading of the budget and June 19 for final reading.
Dr. McGinley’s job is to be an educator and administrator, not a salesperson. But she must be able to sell her budget plan and tax increase to the board and, by extension, to the public.
The board is to be commended for asking probing questions about the district’s ever-growing budget. It should demand answers that adequately justify the administration’s ambitious spending plan for the coming school year.