Mayor wants some casino money for schools to go to parks

GREENVILLE — Mayor John Cox is suggesting that a portion of casino revenue diverted to Greenville’s schools should be directed instead to parks and recreations programs.

“We are trying to figure out a way that gaming funds could be directed through the parks commission to benefit the youth of the Greenville Public School District to assist in voluntary character development or public service programs,” Cox told the Delta Democrat Times after a meeting today between the school board and the city council.

“Those funds will benefit the children, which could indirectly relieve the city because we wouldn’t have to fund the park’s programs,” he said.

Cox said a committee was formed today to further discuss the matter.

The city currently gives the school system 14.2 percent — or $170,000 a year — of casino tax collections. The diversion has been going on for 16 years.

Previously, cities had to be authorized by state law to dispense city funds to a school district. The law was changed effective July 1, 2012, and now says municipalities can only give money to a school district to “assist the voluntary character development or public service programs of the school.”

Cox said the new law prompted the city to take a look at the allocation to the school district.

“We are not in the business of taking money from the school or the children of the community,” Cox said.

Yet, with a budget of about $32 million this fiscal year, Cox said the city’s business is to provide for the city.

District Superintendent Leeson Taylor II said he is willing to work with the city to reach an agreement. However, he said the district, which has a budget of about $57 million this fiscal year, has been underfunded by about a total of $17 million in the last four years.

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