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The jobs of principals and teachers will be secure when Orangeburg County’s public school districts merge, according to a Consolidation Transition Committee official.

“We don't have enough teachers as it is now. So people who are worried about losing their jobs in the schools, that is not an issue," said Harold Young, chairman of the Consolidation Finance and Budget transition subcommittee.

Young spoke Thursday at a meeting of the full committee, which is helping map out Orangeburg County’s transition from three school districts into one.

Young noted administration-level employees could lose their jobs as officials work to reduce the duplication of services.

"That is the reality of what it is," he said. "What we don't want is to have fear in our communities where our educators and our teachers and our principals are running to the doors saying, 'I better get a contract somewhere else.' They are not going to be affected."

In addition to eliminating duplicating positions, Young said there will be a need to equalize salaries throughout the entire county.

While teacher salaries are typically based on degree attainment, he noted the real difference in salaries is in positions such as bus drivers, janitors and administration.

"Overall there might not be a real savings over the first couple of years because of the rightsizing and the equalization of the salaries and the pay," Young said. "The equalization may not send big savings our way up front, but what we are after is the better quality of education for our kids and for our community."

The single district would employ about 1,990, which is based on the current number of employees in each existing district: District 3, 493; District 4, 509 and District 5, 988.

Transition Committee Chairman Donnie Hilliard said at the next meeting, the committee will go into closed session to discuss salaries and contracts.

"I have some questions where I have to call names and I don't want to call names knowing that it could create mayhem," he said. "In order for us to do our job, I am going to have to call some names.

“I don't want to create the boogeyman in the process of how we equalize those salaries and pay."

The taxable general fund budget for the new school system would be $126.7 million, based on combining the budgets of the current school districts.

Of that, 54 percent of the expense comes from Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5, 25 percent from OCSD4 and 21 percent from OCSD3, Young said.

This does not include federal and grant money the district would receive. It also does not include the equalization of salaries, Young said.

"The next step ... is do a countywide assessed value of vehicles, property and translate that into a millage total to be able to determine what is the millage impact for each area," Young said.

The figures should be available by the committee's Aug. 9 meeting.

Currently, the value of a mill in District 3 is $61,000; $65,000 in District 4 and $150,000 in District 5.

Consolidated debt for the entire single school system is almost $60.2 million, Young said. The debt includes capital leases. The dollar figures are as of June 30 of this year.

Once the districts are consolidated, the debt will be consolidated with one bond issuance, Young said. He said there should be some savings.

Lawmakers approved legislation last year requiring the merger of the county’s three school districts into one by July 2019. The 18-member committee is tasked with planning and preparing for the changeover.

A new, unified school board will be elected in November. Filing for the new school board will run from Aug. 1-15.The current school boards will continue to operate until July 2019.

In other business:

• The county's three school superintendents are meeting with the S.C. Department of Education on Aug. 1 to determine how to move forward with consolidation.

• The next meeting of the consolidation transition committee is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9. The meeting will be held in the third-floor training room of the Orangeburg County Administrative building on Amelia Street.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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