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Schools: Board adopts tax increase to raise teacher pay

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

School board members said they received no comments on a proposal to raise taxes to fund a pay raise for teachers. They voted this week to include the increase in the budget.

The 2.1 mills of additional tax will raise an estimated $735,000, which will give teachers an extra 1 percent pay increase in addition to an annual step increase that averages 2 percent. Superintendent Randy Dozier proposed the increase last month, saying Georgetown County schools are losing teachers to neighboring districts that pay more.

Board Member Arthur Lance, who last month urged teachers to lobby for the increase, said he only heard from a few. “I haven’t heard one word,” Chairman Jim Dumm said. Neither had Board Member Richard Kerr, who said some constituents regularly contact him on tax issues.

State law exempts owner-occupied single-family homes from school operating taxes. Dumm said that probably accounts for the lack of comments. The increase will cost the owners of commercial property, including second homes, $12.60 for every $100,000 of taxable value.

The district will use $556,000 for the 1-percent raise and use $185,000 to create a pool of three teachers who can be assigned to fill needs when the schools open in August. If the teacher pool isn’t needed, Kerr recommended the money go into the district’s reserve.

The reserve is currently just under $11 million and Dozier said it needs to be $15 million “if you want to sleep good at night.”

With enrollment falling in some schools outside the Waccamaw Neck, the district will see its staff drop by 12 next year, to 1,367. “We’re handling those through attrition,” Dozier said.

He would like to add a sixth technology coach to work with teachers and add a position to the district information technology staff to assist with computers. “That department is probably maxed out,” Dozier said.

The district expects to get some help from the state budget, where additional funds are proposed for reading coaches. The state had planned to fund only half those salaries. “That’s great because that’s another $150,000,” Dozier said.

He also expects that the district will have funds to carry forward from its current budget, particularly from its $3.7 million supply budget. “We’re probably looking at $200,000 to $300,000,” he said.

But Dozier cautioned that additional funds will be needed next year to bring teacher salaries in line with nearby districts. “To catch up, we would have to have a fairly good increase next year,” he said.

The school board will hold a hearing on the $81.3 million operating budget on June 23. In recent years, the budget has drawn no public comment.

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