S.C. House budget writers approved spending $100 million Wednesday on buildings at poor S.C. schools.
The money would go to schools in the 39 poor, rural school districts that sued the state in 1993 for lack of support. In 2014, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled the state had failed to provide a “minimally adequate” education for students in those districts.
School buildings in the poor, rural districts are in disrepair. The added $100 million is intended to make improvements.
“It goes towards, obviously, showing we are addressing those needs,” said S.C. House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson.
Never miss a local story.
However, state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said she wants to ensure that some of the districts, which have paid for repairs, still will benefit from the money. “It’s not their fault that it took the state this long to pony up.”
S.C. House budget writers also approved spending $150 million to cover the increased pension contributions that will required from employers of state workers.
The money would cover half of the 2 percentage point increase that public-sector employers — cities, counties and school districts — will have to pay in the state budget that starts July 1. The money also would help employers cover employees who are paid with federal money or tuition dollars.
Under the budget proposal, most state employees will not get a pay raise. But the state will cover the increased cost of their health insurance.
With the $522 million in added money in this year’s $8 billion general fund budget, House budget writers also agreed to spend:
▪ 82 million to pay the state and local match for federal money to pay for Hurricane Matthew recovery costs
▪ $38.1 million to increase the amount that schools get, based on their student population, to $2,400, up $50 a student
▪ $22 million for the Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund, used for incentives to lure economic development projects to the state
▪ $5 million for beach renourishment
▪ $5 million for road and bridge repairs
▪ $4 million to cover a $750 pay raise for Department of Corrections officers
▪ $1.25 million for the state and local match for federal money to pay for the Pinnacle Mountain Fire recovery costs
▪ $502,375 to cover a $750 pay raise for Department of Juvenile Justice officers
A bond bill? Maybe
The House Ways and Means Committee did not add any new dollars for S.C. public colleges and universities in its budget proposal.
“The good news is nobody lost anything,” said S.C. House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson. “The bad news is nobody got anything."
For colleges to get any added dollars, lawmakers will have to pass a bond bill, White said, adding that could happen in the coming weeks.
Colleges and universities say they need the money for maintenance and renovation projects that were deferred when the state cut its funding of higher education in the wake of the Great Recession.