Teacher salaries will increase again in Fort Mill. This decision in itself does not require a tax increase, but a separate decision on Wednesday will.
The Fort Mill School District Board voted Wednesday to add contract days for special education teacher training, more preschool intervention for students in need and maintenance positions. The cost of more than $400,000 will come from a million tax rate increase and a transfer of contingency funds.
A $1 million raise brings the district more than $300,000.
“Even though it’s just a factory, it’s a tax increase,” said board chair Kristy Spears. “But it is precisely about an increase in taxes and not on houses. Not on primary residences.
Businesses will pay the tax increase from Wednesday’s ruling. The same will apply to rentals and property tax on cars and boats. Someone with a $30,000 vehicle would pay less than $5 more per year. Companies would pay varying amounts depending on their properties.
Board members say there have been considerable funding challenges this year that make the increase necessary if they are to fund the needs. Additional work with 4K students and training that could help in the area of high-turnover special education can have a lasting impact for students and staff, board members said.
“Our main focus should be, what can we do to improve the school district?” said Scott Frattaroli, Board Member. “What is within our authority to meet the needs of our students? It is our authority over what we are able to do to serve our students, to serve our staff, to serve our families. That’s it.”
Board member Celia McCarter pointed to a state increase in the district’s share of employee health insurance, from 3% annually to 18% this year. It cost the district $1.2 million. Fort Mill also does not receive the same state funding as other areas, depending on demographics.
“This is the only funding mechanism we have at our discretion to make a difference in the education of Fort Mill students,” board member Michele Branning said of the fee increase. . “I think it’s worth trading.”
Teacher salary increase
The tax decision came just after the council approved a new pay rise for teachers.
“Any day that we can raise our teachers’ salaries is a great day,” said board member Wayne Bouldin.
In June, the board approved increases of $2,000 to teachers’ annual salaries. New state funding, updated estimates from June York County tax reports, interest on investment allowances and more, combined with contingency funds, will award $300 extra per teacher.
The increases would bring teachers’ starting salaries to $43,700, the highest among neighboring districts, according to Leanne Lordo, deputy superintendent and chief financial officer for the district.
This distinction is significant.
“We are now recruiting across the country,” Superintendent Chuck Epps said. “And you don’t know much about Fort Mill or Clover or York. So when you look at that and add the $300 and put us back to number one in the region, you get their attention right off the bat. It’s a recruitment issue for us.
A new state requirement that districts start at $40,000 or more means that state money was provided to districts that weren’t at that level. Fort Mill did not receive this additional money.
“The gap is going to get smaller and smaller between districts when it comes to teacher compensation, which will make it even more difficult to recruit new teachers from out of state who really don’t know much. about South Carolina and specifically about our region,” says Lordo.
McCarter said increasing teacher pay across the state is both a positive step and a challenge.
“I’m incredibly encouraged that it looks like our surrounding districts are capable and putting more money into paying teachers,” McCarter said. “We learned and we know how important and valuable teachers are, and how hard they work. And I believe that we need, as a culture and as a society, to start emphasizing that better by paying them that way.
Still, she says, wage increases are proving a challenge in Fort Mill if the district is to stay on top.
“We have to pay the best, recruit the best and keep the best,” McCarter said.
At Fort Mill, it is the constant need for more teachers that makes raising salaries difficult. The district typically needs to add new double-digit positions per year and often sees dramatic increases with the opening of a new school. There are already preliminary works for the opening of a new elementary and intermediate school.
“We’re certainly still dealing with the fact that we’re the fastest growing district in South Carolina,” Lordo said. “We still need to hire probably proportionally the highest number of new teachers per year to accommodate our growth, and our public funding is not at the same level as some of our surrounding districts.”
This all comes as Fort Mill and other districts face a dwindling number of teacher candidates.
“What we’ve seen happening in education across the state and the country, in terms of teacher recruitment and retention, it’s become a vital consideration in maintaining our teachers’ salaries. at the highest level that we can fund,” Lordo said.
The latest $300 increase for teachers does not have its own tax hike. Board members say they would like to pay teachers more, but must balance that desire with funding limitations.
“To me, it’s a balance because it’s not just our staff,” Epps said. “It’s also the public and the tax money.”
This story was originally published July 21, 2022 2:55 p.m.