State Board of Education upholds Spearman decision on Sumter School District emergency

SC Department of Education upholds Spearman decision on Sumter School District emergency

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the State Board of Education upheld State Superintendent Molly Spearman’s declaration of fiscal emergency in the Sumter School District.

The board agreed 10-0 during an afternoon vote.

In a letter, Spearman declared the school district with having a “fiscal emergency” in February. The decree was in large part to the district’s “non-compliance with the district’s financial recovery plan and the possibility of further fiscal decline.”

“Decisions that put the financial stability of a school district at risk and put the education of students and tax dollars of the public in jeopardy cannot be tolerated,” Spearman said in the announcement. “The Sumter School Board made a conscientious effort last year to fix the financial crossroads that it found itself in but recent decision making by the Board has undermined that effort. I am committed and bound to intervene through a fiscal emergency to ensure the best interests of the students, parents, and Sumter community are being served. We will work quickly and diligently to move the district in the right direction.”

The fiscal practices legislation requires that the State Superintendent declare a fiscal emergency in five situations:

  • Failure to submit an acceptable fiscal caution recovery plan
  • Failure to comply with a fiscal caution recovery plan
  • Risk of debt default
  • Three fiscal years of fiscal watch or caution
  • Necessary to correct fiscal problems

In May of 2017, Governor McMaster signed into law legislation creating the Statewide Program on District Fiscal Practices and Budgetary Conditions.

The school district appealed the declaration in March.

On March 19, 2018, the Sumter School District was placed on fiscal caution for failure to meet the Fiscal Year 2016-17 minimum general reserve fund balance. In 2017, a consultant was paid $1,000 a day to assess the “widespread overspending" in the school district that led to the discovery of a $6.2 million shortage. After that discovery, the school district approved more than $6.8 million in budget cuts .

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