GEORGETOWN — After a school year many teachers say was riffled with struggle as they adjusted their curriculum and modes of teaching to fit COVID-19 protocols, Georgetown's public school teachers may see salary increases next year.
As a whole, Georgetown County School District's proposed budget for next year is $93.2 million — $1.6 million more than the current budget. Of the $1.6 million increase, $981,000 is for teacher salary increases.
The district is able to budget in these salary increases because of the three installments of ESSER funds it has received from the federal government over the last several months, totaling more than $40 million.
These federal funds have been used to upgrade district technology and will continue to be used for hiring and paying new positions in the district, such as five additional rehabilitative behavioral health services interventionists, an additional psychologist and an additional speech pathologist.
Budget money usually would cover these areas, but because of ESSER funding, the district is able to focus its budget on other areas such as teacher salary increases.
Eligible teachers can expect two step increases, one for the current school year and one for the 2021-22 school year, plus an extra $1,000 added to their salary from the state. Step increases are based on teacher experience, said Lisa Johnson, the district’s associate superintendent for finance and technology.
"It's like 'I've taught schools this year, and when I come back next year, I have another year's experience. So my certificate goes from one year experience to two years experience,'" Johnson said.
When Johnson presented the proposed budget to the school board May 18, board member Michael Cafaro expressed concern about using most of the budget to give salary increases to non-essential employees.
"We've had this discussion over a period of months about non-essential employees, which includes retirees who were brought back and so forth — and I'm not speaking about in the classroom, that's a whole different entity — but my point is if the budget is 88 percent salary (increases) and we're keeping people who may be non-essential, we need to take another strong look at that," Cafaro said.
The board ultimately approved advertising the proposed budget and its public hearing, as well as its adoption, for June 8. Unlike the city and county, Georgetown schools only has one reading for the proposed budget, which can be given final approval in the same meeting.