The Orangeburg County School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $130.8 million budget at a special board meeting called Tuesday.
The budget includes a $2,000 salary increase for teachers and a one-time $1,000 allowance for all employees. The balanced budget does not require a tax increase.
The new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Trustees had previously given third reading to a preliminary budget of $128.4 million, but met on Tuesday to review the numbers again after the General Assembly approved the state budget.
The state spending plan raised the minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $40,000.
Lawmakers also invested an additional $275 million in the state’s education funding formula, according to The Associated Press. Districts can use the money as they see fit, but a number of lawmakers had suggested a $4,000 pay raise for all teachers.
Two budgets were presented at the special meeting of the OCSD Board of Directors. One included a $4,000 salary increase for teachers, while the other included a $2,000 salary increase for teachers.
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Foster said the district is proposing a budget that includes the $2,000 salary increase and the $1,000 stipend.
A $4,000 increase in teacher salaries with a one-time $200 stipend for all employees would have brought the budget to $132.8 million. This would have required a 10 million tax increase.
District Deputy Superintendent of Finance Gail Sanders said the district was not required to give a $4,000 raise, but was still working to ensure teachers received a raise, while also offering a stipend unique, all without a tax increase.
“If you give them the $2,000, plus the step increase, and then give them a one-time stipend, it will come closer to that $4,000,” she said. Administrators previously agreed to an experience-based STEP increase for teachers of up to 19%.
OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said, “These two proposals bring us into compliance with state law because one allows us to maintain our local supplement plus $2,000, which puts us in compliance with state law. would still place $4,000 above the state’s minimum pay scale at each step. ”
Sanders said the recommended budget does not require an increase in mileage. The operational mile would be 219 and the debt service mile would be 42.
In addition to the teacher salary increase mandate, the state also mandates an experience-based salary increase for all employees; an increase for bus drivers; an increase in the cost of retirement for the employer; and an increase in the cost of health insurance for the employer.
Trustee Dr. William O’Quinn said that while he had initially favored a mileage increase to fund a $4,000 salary increase for teachers, “I think 10 mills would be too much.”
Trustee Betty J. Pelzer said voters don’t want their taxes to go up and the long-term effects need to be considered.
“We already know they don’t want a tax increase. We don’t want to push the school district into the red, but we also want to make sure we’re being as fair as possible with our staff members,” she said.
Pelzer continued, “If you can’t afford to do that, then we’re going to have to do something different. I would also like us (board members) to have meaningful conversations with our constituents…so that we can give them substance when we start trying to answer their questions.
Trustee Mary B. Ulmer said having a legislative liaison for the board would be helpful in this process.
“We could bring in these people to present legislative issues to our constituents. So as a board, we have to look at that policy,” she said.
Trustee Peggy J. Tyler said, “I don’t want my taxes raised, and I know my constituents don’t want their taxes raised.
“You are talking about people leaving. Yes, they leave, but they don’t just leave because of what we pay. Some of them go to the districts paying less than we pay and it is because of the treatment they receive. We have to look at that as well,” she said.
The budget includes $74.6 million for salaries, including the $2,000 increase for all positions in the professional salary grid, as well as a 68-cent hourly rate increase for bus drivers, an experience-based salary increase for eligible employees and a $2 million one-time allowance of $1,000 for all employees.
There’s also $31 million for benefits, to include an 18.1% increase for employer health and a 1% increase for employer pension.
Additional expenditures include: procurement services, $13.6 million; supplies, $6.5 million; equipment, $1 million; others, $696,000, and transfers in the amount of $848,000.
For the past two years, district revenues have exceeded expenses.
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