Consultant reveals source of Sumter School District's budget pit - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Consultant reveals source of Sumter School District's budget pitfalls

It was a packed house at one Sumter elementary school for the latest school board meeting Monday. (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS) It was a packed house at one Sumter elementary school for the latest school board meeting Monday. (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS)
(Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS) (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS)
One page of the four-page analysis presented by consultant Scott Allan. (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS) One page of the four-page analysis presented by consultant Scott Allan. (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS)
SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

Many families in the Sumter school district are frustrated tonight. They finally got some answers as to why the district is facing a massive 6 million dollar shortfall.

A consultant found that budget hole was caused by widespread overspending in the Sumter schools to the tune of $6.2 million. Now many parents say they want to see school leaders held accountable for the deficit. Many who came out said they want to see a lot of faces on that board, including the superintendent, gone.

Scott Allan, who was hired as a consultant for the school district at $1,000 a day, concluded that a lack of financing was the problem in many areas.

In planning for this fiscal year about 37 people were hired by the district without adequate funding. In addition, several departments for the district were over budgeted, including costs for transportation and substitute teachers.

In mid-January, the board did approve $6.8 million in budget cuts. 

MORE: Sumter School District approves $6.8M in budget cuts

As he addressed the packed room, Allan says the entire Sumter School District budget will have to be "picked apart." Heard in the meeting Monday was that out of the 49 positions hired by the district, there was only funding to support 12 positions. The budgeted amount totaled $680,400. 

Out of those 49 positions, at least 30 of them were hired with review or approval - 23 of them were approved by Superintendent Frank Baker, per the analysis. The value of those 49 positions totaled to $1,071,474, according to the analysis. 

The 49 positions were out of a subset of 268 new hires for the 2015-16 school year. Allan's report zeroed in on those 49 hires as a part of his analysis. 

The budget for substitute teachers was also more than $1 million.  Despite the issues, Allan says the school district should be able to afford a qualified finance director. 

Specifics about the unapproved hires by the district were discussed in executive session, per Superintendent Baker.

“I just think it’s mass chaos," said Sumter teacher Lynne Nelson. “we’re under extreme scrutiny, and then here they are. They get to spend money and they’re not under any scrutiny at all.”

For school leaders the question now is how to get things back on the right track. Earlier this year jobs were cut for Sumter schools and spending frozen.

"I think every aspect has to be reviewed and studied," Baker said when he took questions after Allan's findings were read. 

Baker said that staffing levels at all departments, including athletics, are being evaluated. A number of the residents who attended the meeting carried signs asking for new leadership, among other things. 

Allan said with any luck, Sumter schools could see a turn around in the problem as they get ready for the next budget year.

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