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No tax increase in Orangeburg County School District budget; plan includes teacher raise, employee stipend

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The Orangeburg County School District trustee board gave unanimous approval to a $130.8 million budget during a special called board meeting on Tuesday.

The budget includes a $2,000 salary increase for teachers and a one-time, $1,000 stipend for all employees. The balanced budget does not require a tax increase.

The new fiscal year starts July 1.

Trustees had previously given third reading to a preliminary $128.4 million budget, but came together Tuesday to look at the numbers again following the General Assembly’s approval of the state budget.

The state spending plan increased the minimum salary for teachers from $36,000 to $40,000.

Lawmakers also put $275 million more into the state’s education funding formula, according to the Associated Press. Districts can use the money however they like, but a number of lawmakers had suggested a $4,000 salary increase for all teachers.

Two budgets were presented during the OCSD board’s special meeting. One included a $4,000 salary increase for teachers, while the other had a $2,000 salary increase for teachers.

Foster said the district was proposing a budget which included the $2,000 salary increase and the $1,000 stipend.

A $4,000 teacher salary increase with a $200, one-time stipend for all employees would have increased the budget to $132.8 million. That would have required a 10-mill tax increase.

District Assistant Superintendent of Finance Gail Sanders said the district was not required to give a $4,000 increase, but still worked to make sure that teachers were given an increase, while also providing a one-time stipend, 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 would be closely going towards that $4,000,” she said. Trustees previously agreed to an experience-based STEP increase for teachers of up to 19%.

OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said, “Both of these proposals put us in line with the state law because one allows us to maintain our local supplement plus $2,000, which would still put us $4,000 above the state minimum salary scale in every single step.”

Sanders said the recommended budget does not require a millage increase. The operating millage would be 219 and debt service millage would be 42.

In addition to the teacher salary increase mandate, the state is also mandating an experience-based pay increase for all employees; an increase for bus drivers; an increase in retirement employer cost; and an increase in health insurance employer cost.

Trustee Dr. William O'Quinn said while he had initially been in favor of a millage increase to fund a $4,000 teacher pay raise, “I think 10 mills would be too much.”

Trustee Betty J. Pelzer said constituents do not want their taxes increased and long-term effects had 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 that we’re being as fair as possible with our staff members,” she said.

Pelzer continued, “If you can’t afford to do it, then we’re going to have to do something different. I also would like for us (board members) to have some meaningful conversations with our constituents … so we’ll be able to 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 that process.

“We could have these people come in to get legislative issues to our constituents. So as a board we need to look at that policy,” she said.

Trustee Peggy J. Tyler said, “I don’t want my taxes to go up, and I know my constituents don’t want their taxes to go up.”

“You talk about people leaving. Yes, they’re leaving, but they’re not only leaving because of what we’re paying. Some of them are going to districts paying less than what we’re paying and it’s because of the treatment that they’re getting. We’ve got to look at that as well,” she said.

The budget includes $74.6 million for salaries, including the $2,000 increase for all positions on the professional salary schedule, along with a 68-cent hourly rate increase for bus drivers, an experience-based pay increase for eligible employees and $2 million for the one-time stipend of $1,000 for all employees.

There is also $31 million for employee benefits, to include an 18.1% employer health increase and a 1% employer retirement increase.

Additional expenditures include: purchase services, $13.6 million; supplies, $6.5 million; equipment, $1 million; other, $696,000, and transfers in the amount of $848,000.

Over the last two years, the district’s revenues have exceeded expenditures.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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