Teacher salaries, literacy top the list of proposed spending increases for 2012-13 in Charleston County schools
The two biggest spending increases in the Charleston County School District’s preliminary budget plan would raise teachers’ salaries and expand literacy improvement programs.
School officials are looking at spending $12.2 million more in salaries and $3.8 million more on literacy efforts without increasing taxes.
They gave the county school board a sneak peak at their tentative plans earlier this week and tried to get some reaction. The board will have an official first reading of the 2012-13 school year budget May 29, and a second and final reading will happen in June.
“If you’re not comfortable, now is the time (to say so),” said Mike Bobby, the district’s chief of finance, operations and human resources.
The district’s general operating budget for this year is $334.3 million, and officials are looking at growing it to as much as $363.2 million for next year. They haven’t yet figured out how they would fund all of the proposed expenses; revenues are estimated at $356.9 million.
District leaders might use $10.9 million of its rainy day fund to cover some of the extra costs, but they’re also looking at making cuts, such as charging fees for magnet school transportation.
Families would pay $500 per child each year for bus transportation, with a maximum of $1,000 per family. And low-income students either would ride for free or for $200 per year.
The magnet transportation fee could generate as much as $500,000, and the school board plans to discuss at its meeting Monday whether to move forward with that.
The biggest increase in the budget would come from giving teachers a two-step increase, which is a boost in pay for two years of experience. All employees also would be eligible for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.
It’s been three years since the district gave employees a cost-of-living raise and two years since teachers received a step increase.
“That doesn’t make everyone whole,” Bobby said. “If we were going to make everyone whole, we’d do three steps. We’re not proposing that at this point in time.”
Teachers statewide have gotten behind a grassroots effort, Restore Teacher Salaries, to be paid the money that’s been cut from their salaries during the past few years.
Patrick Hayes, a fourth-grade teacher at Drayton Hall Elementary, has been leading that group, and he said he was pleased with the administration’s proposal.
Although it wasn’t three steps, Hayes said the 2 percent cost-of-living increase is the salary equivalent of that third step. That means teachers will be taking home the money they were promised by the district’s salary schedule, he said.
“This puts us where we need to be,” he said. “I look forward to seeing them follow through on this plan.”
The district also is looking at spending $7.5 million on “strategic priorities,” but officials have not specified or decided where that would go. Another $1 million would go toward Lowcountry Tech Academy, a new career and technology education program downtown on the campus of Charleston Charter School for Math & Science.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.