Betty Bagley

Interim Superintendent Betty Bagley presented the McCormick County School District Board of Trustees with a balanced budget, which they approved Monday night. 

MCCORMICK — Auditors discovered a $600,000 deficit in McCormick County School District’s $10 million budget in the midst of the 2018-19 school year, briefly throwing the district into crisis mode. Officials froze discretionary spending and halved district office staffing.

Monday night, the school board passed a balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year, one that interim Superintendent Betty Bagley said was built “from scratch” so as not to repeat the mistakes made while calculating the previous year’s budget.

The budget includes a millage increase of 2.44%, a figure Bagley said was provided by the state Department of Revenue, which calculates the amount by which districts are allowed to increase property taxes under Act 388.

The budget also includes a state-mandated 4% raise for teachers.

In January, Bagley said the 2018-19 deficit was entirely in employee salaries and could have been avoided had the district used exact figures for salaries and fringe benefits rather than estimates or projections. Fourteen teaching positions were added to the 2019-20 budget to reflect the cost of fully staffing the district. Those positions include teachers who were already with the district but whose salaries hadn’t been included in the 2018-19 budget, and some the district has hired. Seven of the 14 new positions have been filled, Bagley said, and money from those that aren’t can be redirected toward OdysseyWare.

The budget did not include more than $400,000 the district will receive through a proviso redirecting money that was earmarked for the John de la Howe school. The money will pay for another year of the district’s Star Academy, a “school within a school” for eighth- and ninth-graders who are behind grade level. The hands-on nature of the lessons is meant to better engage students otherwise uninterested in school and fast-track their education.

Students will return to the district on July 26. In March, trustees approved a year-round calendar, in which students have shorter summer vacations but more breaks throughout the school year.

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.