Berkeley taxpayers could pay more for schools

Berkeley County taxpayers' wallets could take a hit over the next couple years as the school district struggles to keep up with growth.

Berkeley County taxpayers’ wallets could take a hit over the next couple years as the school district struggles to keep up with growth.

By the numbers

The proposed Berkeley County School District budget includes:

Total revenue

$210,988,393

School health and safety

$1,035,000

District growth

(includes 28 new teachers, counselors)

$2,060,000

2 percent pay increase

$8,500,000

Total expenditures

$219,958,440

Shortfall

$8,870,047

Even with a tax increase, students may be packed more tightly into classrooms next year.

A tax increase and new $25 per student technology fee would make up $3.3 million of a projected $8.8 million shortfall.

“We still wouldn’t be balanced, so we would still need to look at cutting the priorities or some other opportunities,” such as the student-teacher ratio, said School District Chief Financial Officer Brantley Thomas.

Some residents question a tax hike.

“Why would you ask for a tax increase with all that you’ve done to the public already?” said former board member and district employee Jimmy Hinson. “I think the board needs to go back to the budget and cut, because taxpayers don’t need more taxes at this point.”

The board is considering a $214 million budget for next year that could include the technology fee and higher taxes. The tax increase would not affect owner-occupied houses, but would be about $10 on a $25,000 vehicle.

Those increases would hit taxpayers at the same time their taxes go up to pay for last year’s $198 million school-improvement bond, expected to add $60 annually on a $150,000 house and $15 on a $25,000 vehicle for three years, doubling in 2017.

The county also is anticipating a property reassessment in 2014 that could result in higher taxes for some property owners, as values are recalculated.

A tax increase for 2013-14 is necessary because it would help the district prepare for operational costs for five new schools opening over the next several years, Thomas said.

The proposed budget includes $1 million for health and safety upgrades, including seven additional school resource officers and a safety coordinator; $2 million for 28 additional teaching and support positions to handle anticipated growth; and $8.5 million for a 2 percent pay increases for employees.

The district wants to put an emphasis on safety in the next school year by adding school resource officers at Cainhoy and Macedonia, the two middle schools that don’t have them now, plus five officers that will rotate between the elementary schools.

The district also wants to add a safety officer to oversee the resource officers.

The plan also calls for new or improved security cameras, door locks, visitor check-in systems, exterior lighting, and student drop-off and pick-up zones.

The board will discuss the budget at a workshop on June 7.

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