Monday to be first meeting for newcomers Byrd, Disney


Topping the agenda for Sumter School District's Board of Trustees' next regular monthly meeting on Monday will be the swearing in of newly appointed at-large school board members William Byrd and Bonnie Disney.

For Byrd and Disney, it will be their first school board meeting since the Sumter County Legislative Delegation unanimously voted each to the board as short-term political appointees July 31. With the two additions, the board expands from seven voting members to nine.

Monday's meeting will also be the first for two new district administrative leaders in Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm and Chief Financial Officer Chris Griner. The board unanimously voted Hamm as interim superintendent on July 24, with an Aug. 1 start date. Griner began his post as the district's new CFO on July 17.

Major items on Monday's agenda include Griner presenting to the board a preliminary fiscal year 2017 financial report that shows the district is projected to end the year, after all accruals, with a surplus. Griner will also provide the monthly financial report for July.

Additionally, the board will receive a recommendation from its advisory finance committee to have the district's administration prepare for the board various options available to build up a portion of the general fund balance. That fund balance stood at $106,449 with the December release of the fiscal year 2016 audit report by the district's auditor, Robin Poston. Poston said at the time that amount was a critically low level for the district.

Board Chairman the Rev. Daryl McGhaney, who is also a finance committee member, said last week the board will likely consider a three-year to five-year cost-savings plan to restore the fund balance to a more adequate level.

The board will also take action on an 8 percent bond resolution to fund capital projects for technology and maintenance/operations for the upcoming school year with Compass Municipal Advisors of Columbia. The district is expected to enter a pool with other school districts in the state to draw down the interest rate on the short-term borrowing. The bond resolution is the most-common mechanism for school districts in the state to fund capital projects and then pay back the money, according to Griner. The bond resolution is expected to be for about $18.4 million, which is basically the same amount that the district borrowed last year, Griner said.

Monday's board meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road. The board meeting is open to the public, and public participation is also on the agenda.

Settlement agreement with Baker

Phone messages left Friday with Sumter School District's attorneys Halligan, Mahoney and Williams of Columbia to gather more information on the board's settlement agreement with former Superintendent Frank Baker were not returned as of 5 p.m. According to various documentation, it appears the board didn't take a public vote in open session to authorize Chairman McGhaney to enter into a settlement agreement with Baker to pay him one year's salary, or $185,711.40, for consulting services to the district through June 30, 2018. That settlement agreement was signed July 26.

CFO: District will still end year in black

The district is still planning to end fiscal year 2017, after all accruals, with a surplus and in the black, according to its new chief financial officer.

District CFO Griner informed the Sumter School District Board of Trustees' Finance Committee on Thursday at its regular monthly meeting that his preliminary fiscal year 2017 financial report projects the district will have a year-end surplus of about $406,000, after all accruals. Griner will formally make this report presentation to the full board on Monday.

At the committee's July meeting, which was held about two weeks ago on July 25, Griner forecasted a surplus of about $289,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

Griner said Thursday the previous estimate was "conservative," and the uptick factored in various indirect costs.

"You will find that I like to be conservative," Griner said. "I like surprises that go up, not down, so we are very happy that number is going up."

According to Griner, the estimated $405,964 ending fund balance for fiscal 2017 will be added to the district's fund balance of $106,449 at the end of fiscal year 2016 to give the district a projected total fund balance as of June 30, 2017, of $512,413.

According to Griner, generally all accruals as of June 30 - or the end of the fiscal year - are paid out by the end of August. Estimating unpaid payroll expenditures - also known as encumbrances - especially for health insurance benefits can be a difficult task, according to previous statements from Griner and finance committee members.

Thursday's board finance committee meeting was the first for Hamm.