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Schools: District looks at 2% tax increase to raise teacher pay
By Charles Swenson
A 2 percent increase in property taxes will fund an extra 1 percent increase in pay for Georgetown County School District employees. The proposal is under review by the school board for the coming year.
The district already has a step increase in pay built into the budget that starts July 1. That averages 2 percent. A study of salaries in nearby districts shows Georgetown County lagging by about $4,000 a year.
“It would go a long way toward being competitive,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. But he told the board that “I don’t think you can do it in a year. It’s going to take several years.”
“We’ve got to do something for our teachers,” Board Member Richard Kerr said. “We’re losing too many.”
The district last raised its tax rate in 2010 following a property reassessment. If approved, the increase would apply to non-residential property and personal property, such as cars and boats. Residential property is exempt from taxes for school operations.
The extra 2.1 mills under review would add $12.60 to the tax bill of a $100,000 commercial property. It would bring the district’s operating budget to $81.3 million, up from $79.3 million this year.
The budget would be balanced without a tax increase, Dozier told the school board this week. He asked board members to speak with their constituents about a pay and tax increase.
“It’s past time we addressed this,” Board Chairman Jim Dumm said.
Board Member Arthur Lance said “teachers are notorious for being poor lobbyists.” He would tell them, “you need to be heard if you want more money.”
The cost of the extra 1 percent pay increase is $550,000, including benefits. The additional tax would raise $185,000 more than that. Dozier proposed using that to create a pool of three teachers who would be available if enrollment changes this fall require creating new classrooms.
A teacher pool was part of the budget for years, but was cut during the Great Recession. This year’s operating budget anticipates a cut in 4.5 teaching positions due to falling enrollment in rural schools.
Also this week, the school board approved issuing $4.5 million in bonds for capital projects. That will cover technology projects, improvements to make school entrances resistant to intruders and $423,500 worth of repairs and replacements at schools.
Waccamaw Elementary will renovate restrooms, Waccamaw Intermediate will get a playground fence, Waccamaw Middle will get a digital sign and Waccamaw High will replace computers in two labs.
The district plans to hire a firm this fall to come up with a more comprehensive capital needs study.