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Only Two S.C. School Districts Don’t Post Finances

Financial transparency continues to spread among South Carolina school districts.

Nearly a year after a budget proviso went into effect requiring that school districts post the spending details of their budgets online, all but two of the state’s 85 districts have done so.

Only Lexington 1 and Richland 2 have failed to post their check registers on the Internet. And Lexington 1 is in the process of purchasing a new software program and plans to upload its check registers once the new system is in place this summer, district offices said.

In the meantime, the district has been posting monthly budget summaries on its website.

Putting registers online is seen as an inexpensive and effective way to improve school district transparency. Check registers enable taxpayers to review monthly school district expenditures in detail, and once a register is online taxpayers no longer have to wait for information or pay for records.

The S.C. Legislature passed the proviso two years ago that required that all school districts to post the spending details of their budgets online by the end of the 2009-10 school year.

Richland 2, however, has been adamant that it will not do so until it receives funding from the state.

“The district has requested but has not received funding from the Comptroller's Office,” Richland 2 spokeswoman Theresa Riley said.

An official with the S.C. Comptroller General’s office said the agency hasn’t provided funding to any district in the state to assist with transparency efforts.

“It defies logic for one school district to say it would cost them thousands while just about every other school district does it with no additional costs, ” spokesman R.J. Shealy said.

The legislation didn’t require the comptroller’s office to fund the transparency push, and there is no money in the agency’s budget to pay districts to put their check registers online.

Last year, Richland 2 officials said there would be an initial one-time set-up expense of $2,650 related to putting its check register online, and an annual recurring expense of $2,030.29 – money they said would have to come from the comptroller’s office.

As a side note, Richland 2’s board of trustees recently approved a budget for fiscal year 2011-12 that includes an anticipated revenue boost of more than $4 million over 2010-11, to nearly $195 million.

While Richland 2 continues to hold out, other districts have stepped up. Over the past school year, Dillon 2 and Orangeburg 4, for example, have joined the 80-plus school districts already posting financial information online.

In addition, a number of other districts have improved the timeliness of their postings, including Lancaster, Dillon 3, Hampton 2, Chester and Florence 2.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@thenerve.org.

K-12 Local Government Transparency