FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Conventional wisdom holds breakfast as the most important meal of the day, but at Fairfield County School District Office, breakfast is the most informative meal.
Elected officials, law enforcement officers, members of the faith-based community, non-profit organizations and educators gathered for a Superintendent’s Partners Breakfast and received information about Fairfield County Career Center, Fairfield County School District’s budget and Fairfield Central High School’s Class of 2015.
“When people say, ‘Y’all are raising taxes,’ that is simply not true,” said Fairfield County School District Superintendent J.R. Green.
Green said while it is true the district is expecting to increase its budget by 5.2 percent, it is not expected to increase millage. He further added that Act 388, which eliminated property taxes on primary residencies for school operations, means the onus of funding the district falls primarily upon businesses.
“If you own a a home in Fairfield County, they money you pay does not go to the schools,” Green said.
Act 388, which was passed in 2006, eliminated property taxes on primary residencies for school operations and increased sales tax by 1 cent. Revenue generated by the increase is used to reimburse schools for the lost property tax funds.
“But that 1 cent sales tax didn’t make up the difference,” Green said. “Act 388 has not worked out to be a good thing.”
Green said this results in Fairfield County School District being more reliant upon businesses to run the school.
Fairfield County School District’s superintendent explained increased salary and benefit pay is a large factor in the district’s expected budget increase.
Green provided an update about the status of Fairfield County School District Career Center.
“That’s coming along very, very well,” Green said. “”We should be ready to rock’n’roll Aug. 10.”
Green spoke highly of the new facility, which he expects to encourage larger Career Center enrollment numbers with its quality and proximity to the Fairfield Central High School and Fairfield Middle School.
“I’ve been in there three to four weeks ago, and it’s a gorgeous facility,” Green said. “It’s going to increase our enrollment in the Career Center considerably.”
The center will offer barbering, emergency medical service training and firefighting, among other courses.
Green highlighted the accomplishments of the most recent graduating class of Griffins. He proudly stated Fairfield Central High School class of 2015 received almost $6.5 million in scholarships, which represents an almost $3 million increase from 2014.
“When people ask how students are doing in Fairfield County, I think that answers the question,” Green said.
Green answered questions from the community members in attendance.
Fairfield County Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley asked about the district’s historical difficulty with retaining educators.
“I know years ago, we were used as a stepping stone to Richland County,” Kinley said.
Green said retention is continues to challenge Fairfield County School District. He said Fairfield County lacks the type of affordable, quality housing and leisure opportunities young professionals seek.
“I think as long as we’re in close proximity to Columbia and some of those areas, we’re always going to struggle there,” Green said.
Green said Fairfield County School District sometimes serving as a starting point for young educators has the positive effect of allowing Fairfield County School District to attract talented, innovative teachers from throughout the region.
He added that while Fairfield County School District would like to see less attrition than the 52 teachers who did not return after the 2013-2014 school year, it is important to remember some personnel turnover can be a positive.
“Out of those 52, some of those are people you don’t want to lose, some of those are people you want to lose,” Green said. “We aren’t crying a river about all of them.”
Green said he was pleased many members of the community were able to attend the Superintendent’s Partners Breakfast, which fits the spirit of the district’s motto, “Excellence through teamwork.”
He cited Jamie Vollmer’s book Schools Cannot Do It Alone and said the community is an integral part of pushing Fairfield County School’s from ordinary to extraordinary.
“We have a part to play, but so do all of you,” Green said.