SC School Districts Demand $600,000 for Public Expense Records [Updated]
December 8, 2008
SC School Districts Demand $600,000 for Public Expense Records
South Carolina’s 85 public school districts responded to a Policy Council Freedom of Information Act request for public records on employee travel, catered meals and training services by demanding more than half a million dollars in fees before making the data available.
Despite the legislature’s clear intent to make public records available at low cost, the charges quoted by school districts of similar size and budget varied substantially. Responses for identical records requests were as follows:
- 13 districts quoted more than $10,000 for expense records
- 10 districts quoted $1,000 or less for the same request
- The average cost of each district response was $9,818
Greenwood County School District 52 had the highest quote, demanding $217,192. The district justified this amount by claiming 40 hours of staff time plus paper copy expenses. After discounting 10,000 copies at 25 cents per page, labor amounts to $5,367 per hour. That equals an annual salary of more than $10.7 million.
Greenwood 52 has 1,597 students and $14.7 million in total expenditures. For comparison, Florence County School District 5 is nearly identical in size and budget with 1,583 students and $14.8 million in total expenditures. Florence 5 quoted $464 as the cost of providing identical public records. That is more than 467 times less than the Greenwood 52 quote.
Please find information on other districts in the full report attached, or on the Policy Council website using the link below:
The Policy Council has updated yesterday’s release regarding identical Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to each of South Carolina’s 85 public school districts.
The bottom line remains the same. SC school districts demand exorbitant fees, which in effect make it impossible for citizens to gather public records. Identical information is available free of charge for state agencies via the Comptroller General’s website. There is no valid reason citizens should have to pay nearly half a million dollars for public records. Citizens should ask serious questions when several districts provide information free of charge while others responding to an identical request demand tens of thousands of dollars.
Greenwood School District 52 responded to the price quote request with a figure of $217,192. The district now states this figure was its actual travel and conference expense totals rather than a price quote for the information. Please see the original document provided by the district attached and you will understand how its response was unclear.
The revised total demanded by SC school districts to provide public records is more than $400,000. Please update any links to the study using the following link. http://www.scpolicycouncil.com/publications_article.aspx?category_id=11&publication_id=153
Furthermore, District 52’s clarification proves a key point. Despite having just 1,597 students, the district spent more than $217,000 on travel, meals and conference expenses. In these tight budget times when districts are claiming poverty, citizens should be aware of how existing dollars are being spent.
Bryan D. Cox
South Carolina Policy Council