GOP calls on Georgetown school board to give taxpayers more information about attempt to circumvent constitutional prohibition on deficit spending

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 222-7456

GEORGETOWN – After trying to access the Georgetown County Board of Education’s annual budget and spending habits to better understand the motivation behind legislation by state Representatives Vida Miller and Carl Anderson to allow the school board to borrow money to cover operational deficits, the Georgetown County Republican Party Tuesday sent a letter to board Chairman Jim Dumm calling on the board to provide taxpayers easier access to the district’s budget, expenditures, and board meeting information via the school district’s website. Click here for the letter

Last week, the county GOP blasted the proposed legislation as “enabling the school board to engage in reckless spending beyond its means, just like the Obama administration,” and called on Governor Sanford to veto the bill on the grounds that the state constitution prohibits state and all local governments, including school districts, from incurring operational budget deficits.

“The Georgetown County Board of Education already has by far the largest budget of any local government in the county, and Rep. Vida Miller says board members now want legislative authority to engage in deficit spending and put taxpayers in debt just as Congress does,” Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel said Tuesday.

“In investigating why school board members believe they should be above the law against deficit spending found in our state constitution, we found that they don’t post on their website even the most basic financial information for public scrutiny -- a complete school district budget, an annual financial statement and audit, or even an online check register,” Swatzel said. “Taxpayers are entitled to easier, faster, and more complete access to this important budget information, especially when board members and Reps. Miller and Anderson are trying to do an end run around the state constitution’s prohibition on deficit spending by any unit of government in South Carolina.”

Swatzel said the board currently posts online a partial district budget that’s misleading in that federal revenues, capital expenditures, fund balances, and debt service are missing from the document.

“Taxpayers need a complete picture of the financial status of the school district,” he said.

Citing a growing trend in local government, Swatzel asked the board to post an online check register, something the Georgetown City Council recently agreed to do, so the public can scrutinize in detail how the school district spends money each month.

In his letter, Swatzel also asked the board to post online prior to a board meeting all decision documents that will be used for that meeting.

“It’s only fair that the public be given the same opportunity as board members to review these materials prior to a meeting,” Swatzel said.

The board currently posts “Board Briefs,” a synopsis of actions resulting from a board meeting, but Swatzel says the board should post the minutes from each meeting because the briefs “do not provide sufficient detail of board deliberations and votes.”

“The county GOP believes there should be more transparency at every level of government, which better informs the public about the performance of elected officials, ultimately increasing accountability to county taxpayers,” Swatzel wrote.