School board member Todd Garrett didn’t want to raise Charleston County property owners’ taxes, and neither did a majority of his colleagues.
The first-year board member came up with the last-minute cuts and additions that enabled the board to balance the district’s $383.2 million general operating budget without a tax increase. All but one of his fellow board members voted in favor of the second and final budget reading Monday night.
“I was blown away,” said Mount Pleasant parent Ed Potter, who came to the meeting to support more funding for large schools. “They didn’t have to raise taxes ... and they added everything they wanted. It was amazing.”
Despite the urging of district leaders, the board’s budget will not raise taxes in 2013-14 and still provides funding for some key initiatives wanted by the community and educators, including:
Teachers will receive a step increase in pay for an additional year of experience, and all employees will receive a 1.4 percent cost-of-living increase.
The district will add 15 pre-kindergarten classes, 10 of which will start mid-year.
Rural schools will split a pot of $200,000, and large schools, including those in the Park West neighborhood, West Ashley High and Wando High, will have about $2 million to decrease class sizes.
All elementary schools will split $1 million to help pay for computer lab teachers, which was raised as an issue by the Harbor View Elementary School community.
The operating budget, which pays for classroom expenses and teachers’ salaries, is nearly 7 percent bigger than last year’s $357 million. School board member Chris Fraser proposed a budget that would have increased taxes slightly, and he said he was concerned that the district was relying on $10 million in one-time funds for recurring expenses.
“I’m trying to provide some buffer,” he said. “This is a pretty modest adjustment, and it sets us up for future stability.”
Board members John Barter and Cindy Bohn Coats voted in support of his motion, but the majority shot it down.
In other business, the board agreed:
unanimously to hire Lisa Herring as chief academic officer and John McCarron as chief information officer;
to hire Ronald Kramps as executive director of facilities maintenance and asset management;
to transition Memminger Elementary School into an International Baccalaureate school. Board member Elizabeth Moffly was opposed; and
to name the Montessori school at Springfield Elementary “Montessori Community School.”
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.