PROVIDING PREMIER EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT
At the Aiken County Public School District, we strive to be the premier secondary education provider in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) and across our state.
In addition to offering our students and families a high-quality educational experience inside the classroom through our excellent teachers and staff members, striving for premier also means we are dedicated to giving all students access to high-quality, secure facilities. We are able to do this primarily through the trust and financial support our Aiken County community. We always want to ensure transparency and provide clarity wherever possible, especially related to projects funded with valuable taxpayer dollars.
This area of our District website has been created to help inform and update our community on the many wonderful construction and renovation projects currently taking place in our school district, as well as those slated for completion in the future. It will range in scope and include projects approved as part of our Penny Sales Tax initiative to those approved in our recent Bond Referendum, along with updates on our efforts to use our facilities in the most efficient ways possible.
We hope these pages will be an informative guide to our Premier Learning Spaces.
School District Uses Public Resources to Build Trust
By Jason Crane/Aiken County School Board Member
Aiken County is made up of many different towns and cities, each with its own charm, hopes and goals. While we celebrate our diverse communities, it is worth noting that a common thread uniting us all is our commitment to prepare our students for success after graduation and become successful in the variety of opportunities our county is blessed to offer now and in the future. To that end, you have entrusted us to be responsible stewards of your hard-earned tax dollars. It is our duty to ensure that the Aiken County Public School District always make the most efficient use of public funds and resources.
How do we accomplish this task? Quite simply, through consistency and transparency.
First, we hold many face-to-face meetings and conversations throughout the year with stakeholders. These meetings occur before we undertake new construction projects, again as the projects are being completed and when they are finalized. Second, our organization takes pride in financial transparency and posts district financial statements online for open public access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Third, we strive to work with our new facilities and contracting partners to ensure each project comes in on time and under budget. We have been able to accomplish this in nearly all of our construction and renovation projects over the past four years.
Our financial decisions are not made in a vacuum; we have invited members of the community to join us by serving on a number of advisory committees. Thanks to this increased level of volunteerism and service, residents are able to provide oversight, ideas and feedback on our performance in all the important areas of our mission. These mission areas include student instruction, restructuring our Student Code of Conduct to ensure consistency in school discipline, oversight of our multi-year collection of the 1 percent sales tax funds for vital new school construction projects and so on.
Like any premier organization, we also subject ourselves to thorough self-assessments to track our performance and further improve ourselves. We must consistently review our policies and protocols to assess adequate placement of our resources and the proper amount of support needed for our schools and their administrators, faculty, staff and students who are there to lead, teach, support and learn. These reviews have served us well, and we will continue to rely on them because there will always be opportunities for improvement. In fact, it would be accurate to state that our organization remains in a state of constant improvement.
Our community volunteerism and internal self-assessment have helped us continually find opportunities to streamline and recognize savings, which then grants us the opportunity to identify specific areas of need. In one example, we have been able to save over $35,000 in the current fiscal year in the maintenance and custodial departments alone with intensive training, restructured leadership and centralized purchasing to allow for bulk savings. Through these types of savings measures, we have been able to purchase new school athletic team buses and band uniforms, and complete a number of athletic improvements such as new weight rooms and field improvements across many of our campuses. Following an organizational review and restructuring of staff, we were able to appropriate funds to other areas of need, including school landscaping and facility improvements. Restructuring included elimination of area offices and a reduction in the total number of district personnel reporting to the Brookhaven Office. This review allowed us to move a number of positions back to our schools to provide additional support where it is needed most.
The 1 percent sales tax collections have performed beyond projections, translating into direct savings for taxpayers through annual property tax rebates throughout the entire 10-year span of the project. We have also found considerable savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars through an increased commitment to energy conservation at each of our school, office and maintenance locations. Given that Aiken County has 42 campuses this year, focusing on energy efficiencies helps us recognize real savings. For example, in the month of January, as an organization we used 40 percent less electricity over the same period in 2018, which translates to a cost savings of over $203,000 in a single month.
Our award-winning finance department was recently honored for its excellence in financial reporting, which helped the District to secure an increased credit rating, meaning decreased borrowing costs for Aiken County Public Schools. We are fortunate to have such a hard-working CFO and his staff to help keep us financially responsible.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to serve the taxpayers and residents of Aiken County through financial transparency and fiscal prudence. Together, we will continue to provide our students and teachers with the first-class learning tools and environments they will need to compete and thrive in a global economy. We will continue to improve while striving to maintain premier levels of stewardship over your resources.
Thank you so much for your continued support of Aiken County Public Schools. My fellow board members and I are proud to represent you and look forward to working hard for our students, teachers and stakeholders going into the future.
Jason Crane is the representative of District 2 on the Aiken County School Board.