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County dispute means school system may have to borrow $100M

January 10, 2021 GMT

BEAUFORT, S.C. (AP) — One county school district in South Carolina may have to borrow up to $100 million to pay its bills because of a dispute between the auditor and the county council.

The Beaufort County Board of Education approved the borrowing Thursday night, saying the $100 million would be a worst case scenario and they plan to repay any money borrowed as soon as tax money starts rolling in, The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported.

Typically, the school board gets its share of county tax money by Jan. 15. But tax bills have been delayed after the Beaufort County Council sued county Auditor Jim Beckert.

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Beckert was sued after refusing to add a police service bill to Hilton Head Island residents and increasing the amount of money given to a county program without the council’s permission.

The school system doesn’t expect to get its tax money until March, and it needs to cover a $67 million debt payment for other borrowing that is due in February, along with other expenses, district chief financial officer Tonya Crosby said.

The school board also passed a motion looking into actions, including a possible lawsuit, to get back the $350,000 it will cost the system to borrow the money.

“This is not our fault,” member Richard Geier said. “This is something that has to do with a conflict between the auditor and the county council, and it will not be resolved for some time. Unfortunately, dysfunction at the county level has a cost, and that’s about $350,000 that is not in our budget.”