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The dirty little secret of the recently-concluded “stimulus” fight in South Carolina was that far from being faced with cash shortfalls, the Palmetto State’s eighty-five school districts were – and still are – flush with cash.

Almost $800 million in carry-forward reserve funds, to be precise.

Of course, the mainstream media completely ignored the existence of this money, enabling politicians to dangle teacher firings and furloughs in the face of anyone daring to question the wisdom of our state spending every last dime of “stimulus” funding on recurring government programs.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, for example, said that as many as 5,000 teachers would have been fired had South Carolina not applied for a controversial pot of stimulus money – which amounts to just 1.6% of this year’s $20.7 billion state budget, by the way, or less than half the amount our school districts currently have squirreled away.

So why was this $800 million pot of reserve funds ignored? Well, besides the fact that it would have made all that shrill, taxpayer-funded whining we heard over the last few months a little less believable?

“Good stewardship,” we were told six months ago.

School districts claimed that they were just being “responsible stewards” of our tax money, saving for a rainy day – which obviously ignored the fact that recessionary rainclouds had been dumping buckets of bad news on our heads at the time.

Also, prior to 1991 local governments and school districts were prohibited from maintaining reserve accounts altogether – which begs the question of how they managed to survive under the old system.

Another excuse offered by educrats was that these reserves were needed as collateral for massive infrastructure loans, which judging from the rapid growth of these accounts means that every district in the state must have embarked upon a massive new building program within the last five years.

After all, the amount of money in these carry-forward accounts has almost doubled since 2003.

Despite the dubiousness of these excuses, the mainstream media bought them hook, line and sinker – which is why dating back to first time we exclusively reported on these fund balances in January not a peep has been heard on them from any other news outlet.

But still we press on … if for no other reason than it’s just how we roll.

In fact, FITS has obtained some updated financial data from several Midlands, S.C. school districts showing that half of them are currently carrying-forward fund balances that represent a fifth of their annual budget.

KERSHAW COUNTY – 7.55%
LEXINGTON ONE – 11.04%
LEXINGTON TWO – 12.78%
LEXINGTON THREE – 21.44%
LEXINGTON FOUR – 19.44%
LEXINGTON FIVE – 20.65%
RICHLAND ONE – 19.45%
RICHLAND TWO – 9.55%

Of course, these reserve funds pale in comparison to the ones being maintained by Richland and Lexington counties – which come in at 39.3% and a whopping 57.1%, respectively.

Seriously, Lexington County. WTF?

By contrast, state government maintains about 5% of its budget in reserve – at least when those funds aren’t being raided lawmakers it to fund recurring spending.

What’s our point?

It’s simple – your bottom line may be hurting, but government continues to pad its reserves.