Budget woes will continue

COLUMBIA --- Don't for a moment think that South Carolina's budget problems will be solved with $350 million in federal stimulus money that has been the subject of a monthslong dispute.


The state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Gov. Mark Sanford to seek $700 million in federal stimulus money over the next two years that he had refused to request.

Although Mr. Sanford lost his battles and the money will flow to South Carolina, budget holes will remain.

Hundreds of teachers' jobs will be lost. State workers will continue to take unpaid days off. And college tuition will still increase.

"This isn't solving the problem," said Ray Greenberg, the president of the Medical University of South Carolina. But "any help we can get is absolutely critical. The money will allow us to begin the recovery process from the deep cuts we took this year."

His school gets a $12.7 million chunk of the federal cash for 2009-10, making up about half of the money it's lost in budget cuts since July. It means students will see lower tuition increases than approved last week, though in-state students will still pay between 7 percent and 17 percent more, depending on the medical field, with dental at the high end.

University of South Carolina officials will set tuition next Thursday. The main campus and its seven branches have lost $55 million over the past year in state funding. The stimulus allows them to recoup about $30 million in each of the next two years, which officials will use to buy equipment for science research, renovate buildings and labs, and add faculty under one-year contracts, to restore some of the 500 classes cut in tentative plans without the stimulus cash, said USC provost Ted Moore.

"It's one-time money. Once it's spent it's gone. It's not perpetual," Mr. Moore said, explaining why offsetting tuition is a low priority.

The state's 85 public school districts will share the largest chunk of the cash: $185 million, with the amounts varying widely based on districts' property values.

Without the stimulus, kindergarten-through-12th-grade education would be starting the 2009-10 school year with about $500 million less than approved in budgets last summer.

Some of the difference will be made up in nearly $200 million in federal stimulus cash going to South Carolina's high-poverty schools and special education programs that Mr. Sanford had no control over, but that money came with strict guidelines on its spending.