S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed a plan to consolidate school districts in Orangeburg County, objecting to lawmakers giving themselves control over the districts’ budget.
The bill would have merged the county’s three public-school districts into one by mid-2019.
In his Friday veto message, McMaster said he supports the consolidation plan as a way to reduce “out-of-control administrative costs” associated with districts with low student enrollment having their own administrative staffs.
However, the county’s legislative delegation gave itself power to approve or disapprove of the districts’ transitional budget – an arrangement that violates the state Constitution, the Richland Republican said.
“Simply put, our constitutional separation of powers prohibits local legislative delegations from retaining budgetary control” of school districts, McMaster wrote.
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly, calls for a transition committee to form within sixty days of the legislation’s passage. That committee would develop the districts’ transitional budget and present it to state lawmakers representing Orangeburg County for final approval.
The bill was hard fought, as most school district consolidation efforts are, said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. The debate also led to a falling out between two Orangeburg legislators.
Cobb-Hunter said she will propose giving the Orangeburg County Council authority to approve the districts’ budget instead of lawmakers to address McMaster’s concerns. Lawmakers would not be able to take up that proposal until they return to work in January.
Until then, she said she hopes legislators will return to Columbia to override McMaster’s veto and allow the consolidation plan to begin.