AP NEWS

Darlington County school board OKs $95.1M budget

May 14, 2019

DARLINGTON, S.C. – A proposed general operations budget of just over $95.1 million for the upcoming fiscal year will put the Darlington County School District at the forefront among school districts in the region in teacher pay, the district’s superintendent of education said.

The Darlington County Board of Education gave unanimous preliminary approval to the proposed 2019-2020 budget on first reading during its regular meeting Monday.

In its present form, the budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for district teachers and other employees.

“Every employee in the district will receive a raise of at least 4 percent,” Superintendent of Education Tim Newman said.

Revenue figures include just over $1.87 million in additional funds from the state to cover the 4 percent teacher raises. But it will not cover related fringes, district Finance Director Renee Douglas said. That is expected to cost the district just over $805,000.

A 4 percent raise for non-certified or non-teaching district employees, including bus driver and food service workers, is not covered by the state and will mean another nearly $978,000 expense to the district. Fringes for those positions will add about $318,000 as well.

The budget will raise the starting pay for teachers from its current level of $35,000 per year to $39,000 with a $1,000 bonus added for first-year teachers, putting the total starting pay for first-year teachers at $40,000, Newman said.

“That puts the Darlington County School District at the forefront in this state,” he said.

The district’s starting salary for teachers is already higher than many surrounding districts, Newman said.

The increase for first-year teachers will put the average raise for all teachers across the district at 6.8 percent, including the 4 percent raise and a step increase, Newman said. “That’s an average. Some will get more, some less.”

But he said that will put the district in a better position to attract good teachers.

“We believe that will put us in the lead in the Pee Dee,” he said. “The thing is, other districts are doing the same thing.”

District officials and board members say the additional expense is necessary to keep the district competitive in attracting and keeping top quality teachers.

The budget figures are not yet hard and fast. District officials are still waiting to see what a final $9 billion state budget will look like once state lawmakers finish ironing out differences between House and Senate versions of a budget.

The budget also includes $450,000 to fund salaries and fringes for nine new positions, all school-level instructional positions, Newman said. Some of those will help lower student-teacher ratios at the lower grade levels, he said.

“The impact on the general fund is all about instruction,” Newman said.

As presented for first reading, the budget comes with a property tax increase of 4.39 mills, the maximum amount allowable under a state-imposed cap based on a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 2.13 percent. The millage increase will apply to commercial properties only, not to owner-occupied homes, under state law, officials said.

That increase is projected to generate about $800,000 in new revenue for the school district.

Revenue from local sources is projected at nearly $35.9 million for the 2019-2020 budget year, an increase of $2.5 million. Total state revenue is expected to be almost $53.9 million, an increase of $858,789.

Transfers from other funds are expected to bring in another $5.4 million.

The board will continue work on the budget when it holds a budget work session at 9:30 a.m. on May 24.

School district officials will also hold two public hearings on the budget before it comes up for a final vote on second reading in June.

The new budget year starts on July 1.