Coronavirus pandemic could cost Horry County Schools more than $10 million in sales tax revenue

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Leaders for Horry County Schools are worried the coronavirus pandemic could cost the district millions of dollars in the coming years.

The immediate issues for HCS during the pandemic are adapting to entirely online classes, feeding students who need meals and figuring out high school graduation ceremonies. The district may still be feeling the financial effects of the coronavirus well after kids are finally back in their classrooms.

HCS is always looking for ways to keep up with growth, as more kids move with their families to Horry County. The district is projected to grow by 841 students next school year.

That, however, was before the coronavirus.

“There is a possibility that growth may not materialize to that level,” said HCS chief financial officer John Gardner.

That’s far from the only concern in the COVID-19 crisis. Like many businesses and families, it’s the economy, specifically sales tax revenue.

That money funds many upgrades district-wide, but the pandemic’s shutdowns likely means a lot less money. HCS projects if sales tax revenue is down by 15% from April 2020 to June 2021, the district would be short $10,550,225 from pre-coronavirus projections.

During virtual meetings Monday, Gardner said the revenue problems may not be bad at first.

“The annual projections in $24 million for building modification, sustainment projects, equipment, emergency repairs and technology should not be impacted for next year,” he said.

That might not be the case in the 2021-22 school year. Tough budgeting decisions may need to be made, as the district will have to adjust the projected $62,839,300 from the sales tax through the 2023-24 school year, depending on how long the economic impacts from COVID-19 last.

Some board members say they’re concerned about what to spend money on because of the uncertainty around the county’s economy.

“I think these projections are a little bit high because Myrtle Beach is a ghost town and we’re not collecting any of this penny sales tax,” said Sherri Todd, who’s a board member representing Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest.

Next year’s updated, proposed budget would suspend salary increases for all district employees and the HCS board could vote on the budget at a meeting on June 1.

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