Lawmakers seek to rein in Charleston school budget process

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis introduced a bill that would require independent verification as the Charleston County School District writes its budget.

A new Statehouse bill seeks to add some external checks and balances to the Charleston County School District’s often-troubled budgeting process.

The Charleston Schools Balanced Budget Act, House Bill 5279, would require the county auditor to verify the district’s projections for property tax revenues. After the school district’s $18 million budget shortfall in 2014-2015, initial reports placed part of the blame on a $9.36 million overestimation of revenues.

The bill would also require the Charleston County School Board to revise its budget after the passage of the state budget every year if necessary to reflect the funds sent to the district by the state. In January every year, the school board would be required to review its expenditures and amend the budget to fix any deficits within 60 days.

Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, is co-sponsoring the bill along with a bipartisan roster of Charleston-area lawmakers.

“Financial mismanagement and unconstitutional deficit spending in the Charleston County School District are forcing talk of teacher layoffs, program cuts, school closings, credit downgrades and tax increases,” Stavrinakis said in a news release. “As a father of three children in Charleston schools and a taxpayer, I take this issue very seriously. My bill simply requires our school board to only spend what is available and to make sure their staff doesn’t overspend during the year once their budget is adopted.”

The bill was introduced Tuesday and passed a key second reading in the House Wednesday morning.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.