Charleston County School Board approves $357.1 million budget, increases teacher pay
Charleston County School District employees will make more money in 2012-13, and that won’t cause taxes to rise immediately, according to the $357.1 million final general operating budget approved Monday night.
The school board signed off 8-1 on the budget. It gives teachers a two-step increase, or a pay boost for two years of experience, as well as a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees. It’s been three years since employees received a cost-of-living adjustment and two since teachers got a step increase.
“Three years is a long time to go without a pay raise,” said board member Brian Thomas, who asked during the meeting about possibly eliminating part of the increase. “It comes down to hard decisions, and we have to look at so many factors. ... At the end of the day, it’s worth it.”
The budget is 6.9 percent bigger than the current year’s budget, and it won’t raise taxes in 2012-13. Officials have said taxes would need to be raised the following year for everyone from homeowners to small businesses. Board members still would have to vote on that increase, and Thomas said he hopes to find alternatives to raising taxes.
“I’m not voting to raise taxes,” he said.
Elizabeth Kandrac was the lone board member who opposed the budget. She said she supported the pay increase for teachers but didn’t trust the rest of the district’s budget.
“I never do,” she said.
She said she’d like the district to pursue a third-party comprehensive performance audit, a suggestion made Monday by board member Elizabeth Moffly. Until that happened, she said she wouldn’t support a proposed budget.
Kandrac also took issue with those who said teachers needed to make more money so they would stay in Charleston rather than leave for other districts.
“If people leave because of money, do we really want them here if it’s all about the money?” she said.
The budget includes nearly $3 million more for literacy initiatives to help struggling readers. It also includes money for a pilot pay-for-performance program for administrators.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.