BCS begins long budget process for 2017-18

Published 5:44 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

Beaufort County Schools is in the beginning steps of its 2017-2018 budget process.

At a special-called work session on Thursday night, Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps presented the latest capital expenses report to the Board of Education.

As it stands now, BCS would request more than $2.4 million for capital expenses, including maintenance and construction, from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, according to the latest draft. For the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the commissioners awarded the school district around $990,600 for capital expenses.

Phipps said school officials attempted to organize the projects based on need, as well as divide them into two-to-five-year and six-to-10-year projects.

Some of the largest projects ahead include: safety and security measures for the schools, which are estimated to cost almost $1.9 million total, but $300,000 is requested for 2017-2018; activity bus replacements, which costs $178,000 and should be completed during 2017-2018; and system-wide technology updates, which would cost $400,000 total and should also be completed during 2017-2018.

Phipps said the activity bus replacements would include two new buses. He said no activity buses were purchased this year, so the district needs to play catch-up in the upcoming fiscal year.

Another large project involves replacement of a cooling tower (with adjustable-speed drives, or motor controllers) at Washington High School. This would cost about $215,000, according to the latest budget draft, but school officials believe it’s a price tag worth paying.

Stan Hudson, director of maintenance, said Thursday that shouldering the upfront cost of the cooling tower would lead to savings in later years.

The school district has already installed new chillers at Washington High, so for that equipment to work as efficiently as possible, it needs the updated tower to complement it. Hudson said the new tower would save energy and water.

BCS is also looking at possible projects related to a new soccer complex at Washington High and various roof replacements at other schools.

“I think some years you can do more at certain places than others,” Phipps said.

He said there is still a lot of work to be done before the school district makes the request of the commissioners, which will likely happen in late April or early May.

All numbers at this point are preliminary and subject to change. Beaufort County Schools cannot nail down its own budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 before the commissioners and the state nail down their numbers.