Some of $415 million surplus bound for SC schools


THE STATE: BY CASSIE COPE, May 30, 2015

S.C. schools will get at least a $39.5 million boost as part of the $415.2 million surplus that the Board of Economic Advisors approved adding to the state budget Friday.

That $39.5 million could pay for a variety of expenses, including programs for at-risk students and adult education.

Other surplus money certified by the board also will be earmarked for education. But that money could replace general fund financing already in place, which was subsidizing K-12 education, freeing that money for another use.

For example, lawmakers have proposed sending $107 million in general fund money to school districts to offset money that was supposed to be raised — but was not — by a penny sales tax earmarked for education. That penny tax was passed to replace school taxes formerly paid on homes. Those property taxes were abolished in 2006, but the penny tax never has raised enough money to replace the lost property taxes.

The board said the penny tax raised $37.5 million more than projected, relieving part of the $107 million that legislators had budgeted to replace lost property taxes. That money now can go to other state needs.

State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, called it a “win-win situation.”

“That will not only help public education, but it will also … help the general fund overall,” Hayes said.

The board also approved an added $36 million for the lottery, which pays for scholarships and other education expenses, including K-12 technology and school buses.

Lawmakers will decide how to spend the rest of the surplus declared Friday — $302.2 million.

The House Ways and Means Committee will debate that spending Monday.

Senators already have approved how they want to spend roughly half of that $302 million.

They want to use that money for an $800 one-time bonus for state employees, to help counties pay for cleanup costs stemming from the 2014 ice storm and to send about $120 million to counties to pay for road repairs.

None of those ideas has been approved by the House.

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