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After 20 years, Dillon County schools won't get Local Option Sales Tax money from county

Dillon County Council passed the 2017/2018 budget Friday morning and it will have a big impact on not only the county, but also the schools. (Rosalia Fodera/WPDE)

Dillon County Council passed the 2017/2018 budget Friday morning and it will have a big impact on not only the county, but also the schools.

During Wednesday's public hearing on the budget council said they would give the school board $150,000 as a gift in place of the Local Option Sales Tax (L.O.S.T.) money they've received for years, but the school board declined, saying they wanted their full half.

So, on Friday, council amended the budget to not give the school board any of the L.O.S.T. money.

This is the first time in 20 years the county has made this decision.

Dillon County School Board chairman Richard Schafer was there in 1995 when the county first agreed to split their L.O.S.T. fund revenue with the board, something County Council Chairman Archie Scott says was a 'handshake agreement.'

"I was there. No handshake. They voted," Schafer said.

In '95 the voters passed that 1-cent sales tax, about 71 percent of which would be used to roll back property taxes and the rest, about 29 percent, would go towards a new jail, renovating the courthouse, school buildings, or the L.O.S.T. fund, with the agreement that the school board and county would split the revenue funds. The first payment was received in 1997.

"It was county and public buildings. County schools are county buildings," Schafer said.

But, Archie Scott says, since he's been on council, there has never been a line item in any of the budgets they approved that gives half that revenue to the board and said he doesn't know why the county treasurer was giving the funds to the board.

"We, however, did find a resolution that council had passed at that time and that resolution does not have any language in it concerning the schools," Scott said.

County Treasurer Jamie Estes says there is no expenditure line item, but there is a revenue line item showing the split and every treasurer before her gave the board the money based on the agreement made in 1995.

"When they budgeted they only budgeted the revenue portion that they would receive because they did not see the other portion of that funds that they voted to give to the school district," Estes said.

The 2017/2018 budget shows the county budgeted $600,000 for the L.O.S.T. fund.

Every year for the last 20 years the board received half the funds and Schafer says it goes towards paying their debt service.

Last year they received about $319,000.

"It's allocated debt. I mean, it has to be funded. There's no way around it or you go file bankruptcy if you can't pay the debt," Schafer said.

ABC 15 received a copy of an audit from 1997 that shows the split and notes from the meeting in 1995, when the agreement was created, shows that the council voted for it.

If the school board does not receive this money, the county auditor, Kay McKenzie, said they will have to raise the mileage by about 5 mils. Meaning a house worth $100,000 would cost an extra $30 a year.

Council Chairman Scott said if they want the money the school board will have to take it to court and Schafer said he plans to do that.

The county does pay for 5 out of 9 School Resource Officers.

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