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School District CFO addresses ‘$40 million’ speculation
  • Updated

During her comments at the June school board meeting on the district’s fund balance, Chester County School District Chief Financial Officer Mellanie Jinnette addressed the speculation that has been circulated on social media posts that “the school district has $40 million in a reserve account.”

Bottom line: the rumors simply are not true.

During the last bond referendum, the rumor began to circulate that the school district had $40 million in an unspecified “reserve account”. The rumors became so persistent that Jinnette felt the need to address this: “At the end of Fiscal Year 2020-2021 as I reported to you, the district had approximately $36 million in fund balances in all funds (which include the food service fund, among others) however the majority of those funds must be spent on those programs already established in those funds, or held for possible deficits at the district or state level, particularly in the general fund. Especially the state and federal money, while they may have a balance that they can carry over into a new year, we cannot change the direction of those funds — they must be spent on what the original intent of the allocation (of funds) was,” she said.

Jinnette added, “There’s some speculation that the district has some $40 million in a reserve account. This is untrue. Nowhere in any fund, at the district, or the county or the state, do we have reserves of $40 million dollars.

“Our auditor doesn’t know where this number came from; we do not know where it came from, the county does not know where it came from and the state does not know where it came from.

“We have an account called the Local Government Investment Pool, that is held by the state Treasurer, which is where our revenue from the state sits, and we draw it down as we need it. It does not have $40 million dollars in it,” Jinnette said.

She added the only “$40 million” number she can find in the district’s audit is the Statement of Net Position, which is $41 million, but this is actually a negative number. The Statement of Net Position is a report of the district’s pension liability to the state, she explained.

“This is statement that is required in our audit; it is not a reserve account. We do not have a $40 million dollar reserve account.”

The slide Jinnette exhibited concluded, “The County, nor the state, is holding this amount of money on our behalf.”

John Chisholm kneels next to two of the massive Tropical Giant cabbages he planted in February. His garden also contains abundant stands of collards, Celebrity tomatoes, squash and green beans. His secret? Horse manure as fertilizer.

That’s a lot of coleslaw!

Oakley Hall developers have withdrawn rezoning request
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The News & Reporter has confirmed that Griffin Land Holdings, the developers for the proposed Oakley Hall housing development have withdrawn their rezoning application. The developers sought to have the parcel of land rezoned from R2 (Rural 2) to Planned Development, so that they could build a mix of approximately 583 single family homes, townhomes and limited retail on a 180-acre tract of land.

The developers told Chester County Planning and Zoning they were withdrawing their application to consider concerns raised by citizens at the recent neighborhood info meeting at The Gateway. The property is located off of Hwy. 9 and Rodman Rd.

Chester County Planning and Zoning Director Mike Levister said if the developers wish to begin the process again, they would have to submit an entirely new rezoning request application.

Bridget Grant, a land use consultant representing Griffin Land Holdings, confirmed the withdrawal of the request. She said, “Griffin Land Holdings decided to withdraw the petition and we will resubmit a new petition that reflects some of the requests and community feedback that we received during the (community information) meeting.”

Slayman lawsuit against CCSD, former board members, former interim super, dismissed
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A lawsuit by former Chester County Superintendent Dr. Agnes Slayman against defendants Chester County School District, former Chester County School Board Chair Denise C Lawson, former Chester County School Board member Dr. Richard P Hughes, former interim Chester County Superintendent Keith Callicutt and former Chester County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Charles W King, II, has been settled by all parties, according to court documents filed in June.

In a lawsuit filed in 2018, former Chester County School Superintendent Dr. Agnes Slayman claimed the Chester County School District defamed her, breached a contract they entered into with her and committed fraud as they entered into the contract with her. She also claimed individuals Dr. Charles W. King II, former Chester County associate superintendent for Instruction, former interim Chester County Superintendent Dr. Keith Callicutt, former school board member Dr. Rick Hughes, Educational Consultant Betty Bagley and current board chair Denise Lawson named as defendants in the suit, conspired against her. (Bagley was later dismissed as a defendant in the course of the suit.)

In 2022 as the lawsuit continued, Dr. Slayman’s attorney filed a motion for summary judgment, which meant that they asked the judge in the case to make a decision on the merits of the lawsuit before actually having a trial. The motion asked for a partial summary judgment and asked that the claim of breach of contract be decided in Dr. Slayman’s favor.

The defendant’s attorneys also filed a motion for summary judgement in the same month, asking for the court to dismiss all the causes of action in the lawsuit.

Then close to the end of May, Dr. Slayman’s attorney made a motion for a continuance on the hearing on the summary judgment motion and a scheduled jury trial on May 31.

According to court documents, the ‘grounds for this motion are that the parties reached a settlement on Thursday, May 19, 2022’. The motion said the parties ‘now have a dispute regarding non-monetary terms of the proposed settlement agreement. Counsel for the parties, and Plaintiff worked on these issues throughout the weekend and Monday morning, and there appears to be an impasse on this issue. Accordingly, counsel for both parties are still intending to appear before this Court, per the Court’s preferences for appearing together in person...’

The latest filing in June shows that attorneys for both parties agreed to a dismissal of the complaints and that all parties agree to bear their own costs and fees.

Shannon Polvi, representing the attorneys for Dr. Slayman, said in an email statement that they had no comment other than, “We are happy to have a resolution to a dispute that has spanned several years. We hope that everyone involved can move forward in peace.”

Eugene Matthews, who represented defendants Chester County School District, former Chester County School Board Chair Denise C Lawson, former Chester County School Board member Dr. Richard P Hughes, former interim Chester County Superintendent Keith Callicutt and former Chester County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Charles W King, II said in an email statement, “The case is resolved, and it includes all parties. As a consequence, the summary judgment motions filed by both sides will not be ruled upon by the Court. I have asked the parties that I represent not to speak to the media about the case.”

Two council seats decided, November match-up set for another
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Two Chester County Council seats were decided and one matchup was set for this November in last week’s election.

In District one, which was left open when four-term incumbent Brad Jordan opted not to see reelection, former Fire Chief John Agee defeated Nathan Smith 382-217. When the results started coming in for the night, Agee was actually out collecting his voting signs, so they would not be an obstacle in driveways and yards.

“I got a phone call from a friend of mine in Fort Lawn, Maria Hedgpath and she gave me some preliminary numbers, and I was really excited. It’s been a long time since I felt almost giddy at the thought of the people’s trust they were putting in me,” he said.

Agee said one of the first calls he made on Election Night was to Richburg Mayor James Harris, and he told Harris that he would do his best to represent the people in Richburg. The same holds true for the people in Fort Lawn and the other areas of his district, Agee said.

Agee said if his reputation and recognition as the Fire Chief of Richburg helped his campaign in any way, that’s because there were a lot of people that helped make that reputation.

“I have always said, John Agee has never done anything by himself in the fire department or in the community — it’s the men and women in the fire department and the men and women I work with in the community who have built that reputation — just happened to be the person they put their trust in to lead them,” he said.

Agee believes that to capably serve his constituents, he has to listen to them. As such, he plans to do everything possible to stay abreast of what is happening in his district.

“I look forward to representing Fort Lawn, Edgemoor, Landsford and Richburg and the areas around there. I feel like the people have put their trust in me, and one of the things I promised the Town Councils of Fort Lawn and Richburg, I will be attending every one of their council meetings that I can get to, and bringing them information from the county council, and taking their concerns back to council,” Agee said.

Agee faces no Democrat challenger in November.

The District five Democratic Primary was a close one with Corey Guy edging out Tammy Williams 268-254. Public service is obviously a family tradition for Guy, as his two immediate predecessors in the district five seat were his mother Mary (who opted not to seek reelection) and his father George. He said he ran on the slogan of “Being a servant and not a politician” because he will make decisions in the best interest of Chester. He thanked voters for their support and promised to work with the rest of the Council to create budgets and policy to “move Chester County in the right direction.”

“I want to use this opportunity to let the Citizens of Chester County know that I totally understand that holding this seat is not about me but about the Citizens that I will represent. I have lived in Chester for a total of 45 years and throughout those 45 years I can remember many of Chester’s highs and lows and I want to help be a part of building Chester to its highest potential,” he said.

He said he was raised to be a servant “for Christ and community and God saw fit to continue this legacy of community service.” He also acknowledged that many others helped pave the way for him long before he decided to run for office.

“I am walking on the shoulders of the late Beauregard King, Christopher C King and William ‘Bill’ Hunter who worked diligently and spent their own money and petitioned the Supreme Court to make it possible for a black person to hold a office in Chester by fighting for single member districts, restructuring district lines, getting people registered to vote, and encouraging citizens like George ‘Bunny’ Guy, Rev. Bill Stringfellow and James Gore to run for city and county elections,” he said. “Growing up witnessing all of this and watching my mother Mary A. Guy hold this office is my motivation to serve the community and also prepared me to hit the ground running.”

With Chester County having voted to switch from an elected supervisor to a hired administrator, a new, at-large council seat is being created. In the Democratic Primary, William King defeated Alex Oliphant 966-892. Oliphant, a former multi-term council member, wished King and the county the best.

“Congratulations to William King. To my many supporters I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ll continue to do what I do best, love Chester County and keep trying to make it a better place,” Oliphant posted on Facebook shortly after the results were final.

King did not respond to a News & Reporter request for comment. He will face Republican Erin Mosley and Libertarian David Beverley Sr. in November’s General Election.

Incumbent State Rep. Randy Ligon wins close race for Dist. 43 seat
  • Updated

Incumbent State Rep. Dist. 43 Randy Ligon was given a close race by his opponent, Mark Corral. In Chester and York Counties, Ligon received 1,884 votes to challenger Corral’s 1,743 votes.

In Chester County, Ligon received 1,326 votes to Corral’s 735. In York County, Corral was the leader with 1,010 votes to Ligon’s 558.

There is reportedly a challenge to the election results that will be filed in court following the decision of the York and Chester County Election Commissions to certify the results, following a hearing on Corral’s challenge of the votes.

Ligon thanked the voters for putting their trust in him to represent them.

“I am thrilled and honored, and I recognize that it is a privilege for me to serve the people in District 43, particularly in Chester and York Counties,” he said.

“It is very important. I thought we got a lot done in the last few years: we did have one of the biggest budgets and surpluses ever in South Carolina. We want to be careful to invest it properly and not to waste it and not just spend it because we’ve got it.

“I look forward to going back to Columbia to try and hold the conservative line and carefully investing our money in the people of South Carolina, and returning as many dollars as possible back to the people of South Carolina. And we are doing that, with a tax cut, with more funding of schools, and we’re returning a billion dollars to the road funds, and that’s going to make tremendous strides in trying to catch up on the many years of neglect in our roads and bridge systems,” he said.

Ligon said with everything happening in Chester County, like new industries and the promise of whitewater facilities and increased tourism to come, it was obviously important to voters to have a resident legislator in the county.

“Of course I am honored and privileged to be the Representative from Chester County — I’ve been a county resident for pretty much all of my life. I think it’s important — former Rep. Greg Delleney told me years ago it was important that we have representation, and we’ve always had representation. One of the jobs of being a legislator from Chester County has been to maintain our representation, and don’t ever lose sight of the fact that we need and we deserve to be represented in Columbia. I’m honored to be that person,” he said.