DARLINGTON, S.C. – Darlington County School District officials are still waiting to see how state revenue figures will affect the district’s proposed $95.1 million general operations budget for the coming fiscal year.

Darlington County Board of Education members held a work session Friday morning to discuss the district’s proposed budget for 2019-2020.

Teachers and almost all state workers are getting a raise in South Carolina's $9 billion budget approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday.

The state budget sets aside $160 million for raises for teachers, who will all get at least a 4% bump in pay. It also has a 2% raise for all state employees as well as a $500 bonus for state workers who make less than $50,000.

School district Chief Financial Officer Renee Douglas told the board that as of Friday it was still unclear how the new state budget will impact projected state revenue to the district. “There are still some unknowns in this,” Douglas said.

“The impact on the general fund is all about instruction,” Superintendent of Education Tim Newman said when he presented the budget for first reading on May 13 when the board gave unanimous preliminary approval to the budget.

The new budget represents an increase of $5.6 million over the current year’s budget, Douglas said. “That could still change,” she said.

Friday’s work session was also a time to give board members an opportunity to ask district administration officials about the administration’s proposed budget. “Now is the time to ask questions about what the administration has,” Newman said.

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

The total cost of the 4% teacher raise and the step increase is projected at more than $2.7 million with related fringes projected at $805,325 for a total of more than $3.5 million. Revenue figures include just over $1.87 million in additional funds from the state to cover a portion of the teacher raises, leaving he district with almost $1.7 million to pick up for its portion of the raises and fringes.

The budget will raise the starting pay for teachers from its current level of $35,000 a 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. The district was already in “pretty good shape” with a starting salary of $35,000, which is higher than most surrounding districts, he said.

The increase for first-year teachers together with the 4% raise for all teachers and a step increase for teachers (based on years of experience) will put the average raise for all teachers across the district at 6.8%, Douglas said. Some will get more, some less, but all will get at least 4%.

Officials say that will put the district among the top paying districts in the Pee Dee and the state.

The increases are aimed at keeping the district competitive with other districts in attracting and keeping good teachers, officials say. “One of the best things we can do for our kids is to hire the best teachers we can,” Douglas said. “What we wanted was to make sure we are very competitive with our neighbors.”

A 4% raise for non-certified or non-teaching district employees 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. Officials said those increases are also aimed at keeping the district competitive with neighboring district in attracting and keeping good employees.

What all that means, according to district officials, is:

  • No district teacher will be paid less than $39,000 (First-year teachers also receive a $1,000 bonus).
  • No district teacher will receive less than a 4% raise; plus their step increase; the average teacher will see a salary increase of 6.8% over their current year salary.
  • All other district employees will receive at least a 4% raise in pay.

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 are for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and arts positions, and some will help keep student-teacher ratios down at the elementary level, officials said.

In its present form, the general operations 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%. 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 new 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.

Two public hearings on the budget are scheduled for May 30, one at 5 p.m. at the district administrative office in Darlington, and one at 6 p.m. at the Hartsville High School media center.

A final vote on the budget is scheduled for second reading in June. The new budget year starts on July 1.

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