In January, new School Board Chairman Ken Richardson is slated to take office. Richardson won the July 17 Republican primary in a landslide. He faces no Democratic candidate opposition in the coming November 6th general election. Eleven school board members are elected by the public in districts throughout the county. The chairman is elected by the public at large.
The Horry County School system operates the largest budget in the county. The annual school district budget comes in at around $754 million.
The School Board met with the facilities and finance committees this past October 9th. Discussions centered on raising taxes on Horry County residents in order to fund the district’s five-year capital plan.
School Board member and finance committee chairman, John Poston [of District 8 – Carolina Forest/Socastee], noted that the committees have been discussing funding options for about a year, but no action has been taken.
John Gardner, the district’s chief financial officer, stated that the board can vote to raise the millage rate, currently at 10 mills, or borrow up to 8 percent of its debt capacity without asking voters, per state law. One mill is equal to $4 per $100,000 assessed value of a home. The current 10 mills is equal to $40 per $100,000 assessed value.
Discussion among the group and the board members included a consideration of raising the rate from 10 mills to 12 or 14 mills. School Board member Janice Morreale spoke in favor of a combination of raising the millage rate and borrowing. Morreale says the needs of the district are greater than the money available. Board member Chris Hardwick agreed with Morreale that a millage increase is needed. He is not in favor of borrowing.
While Chairman-Elect, Ken Richardson, has no school board authority until he takes office in January 2019, MyrtleBeachSC news reached out to him about his thoughts on the proposed tax increase. Said Richardson, “I am opposed to any tax increase. This may be my first real fight as School Board Chairman. I will fight for no new school tax increases. If it is approved before I take office, I will work with other board members to repeal it.” Richardson stated the education capital sales tax was passed to avoid just such tax increases. The “Capital Sales Tax” is a penny tax that was passed by public referendum. The tax is set to be placed on the ballot again in November 2022.
Other board members agree. Board members Ray Winters and Holly Heniford both spoke against a millage rate increase unless they could get approval from voters. Board member Sherrie Todd added that the committees need to take into consideration the current condition of Horry County following Hurricane Florence before adding an additional financial burden on residents.
Richardson also believes the School Board should closely examine the district’s procurement and purchase agreements before considering tax increases. “As School Board Chairman, I intend to do just that,” Richardson said.