The Orangeburg County School District estimates it could face a $3.8 million budget shortfall if the South Carolina House budget plan becomes law.
The House version of the budget calls for all teachers to receive a $4,000 salary increase, with the state funding about 75% of the increase. The remaining 25% will go to the local school district.
“If you’re going to mandate something, I think it’s prudent that you fund the mandate 100%,” OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster told school board administrators during a session. budget workshop on Tuesday.
“That’s the request of most school districts in the state,” he said.
For the Orangeburg County School District, the house plan would mean a $4,000 raise for 841 of the district’s 867 eligible teachers.
The district should take money from its fund balance or raise taxes to meet state mandates, Foster said.
He expressed his concerns about the funding plan.
People also read…
“The $4,000 increase for each teacher is not really a $4,000 increase for each teacher,” Foster said.
The state will only fully fund teachers who have reached certain levels of education and experience, such as a master’s degree with 12 years of experience, that are below the state’s minimum wage schedule for the category.
For those below the state minimum wage level in other educational and experience levels, the state would only fund about 75% of the $4,000.
The House bill also requires districts to increase the minimum teacher salary for new teachers to $40,000 per year.
The OCSD currently has 89 teachers who receive an annual salary of $36,000, the starting salary of a school district teacher. These 89 teachers would receive the $4,000 increase.
“Some steps on our pay scale exceed the state’s minimum pay scale, even with the $4,000 increase, so those teachers wouldn’t get anything,” Foster said. “Some will get $4,000, some will get $2,000, some will get nothing. It’s a matter of where you fall on the scale relative to the state’s minimum wage schedule.
OCSD Deputy Superintendent for Finance Gail Sanders said that under the House’s proposed budget, the district would receive $53.8 million in state funding for the 2022-23 school year.
This represents an increase of $5.3 million over the amount received by the district in 2022.
In addition to the unfunded portion of state teacher salary increases, the House budget includes other mandates that are not fully funded by the state.
The mandates include an 18.1% increase for health insurance ($894,852), a 1% increase for retirement ($569,031), an increase in teacher experience and benefits ($1,190 $887).
The district estimates it will have $9,134,038 in state warrants, creating a shortfall of $3,843,407 for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
While the House passed its version of the state budget, the SC Senate Finance Committee is still developing its version of the budget.
District says Senate discussing around $2,000 raise for teachers
“It’s a smooth process,” Foster said.
“We don’t know what the changes will be. We will wait for changes and recommendations from the Senate,” he said.
Foster said he continues to be in contact with the local legislative delegation about this. It may not be resolved until June, if not later.
Administrator Dr. William O’Quinn said the state legislature needs to address the budget earlier in the year to give school districts more time to make decisions. The district is due to complete its budget in June.
“The Legislature is sitting there waiting until the last minute to give us the rules and we have to play by them,” O’Quinn said. “It’s hard for us to do that.”
“I realize it depends on the money they get, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for them to tell you what you need to do and then we don’t have the money to do it because ‘ they don’t send the money down,” O’Quinn said. “It’s hard work for us.
Administrator Mary Ulmer asked how the district is doing financially.
The district expects it will end the fiscal year with a fund balance of $16 million, Sanders said.
Some administrators expressed the wish to have more frequent and detailed budget workshops.
“An hour won’t be enough,” said counselor Dr. Sylvia Bruce-Stephens.
Board secretaries Idella Carson and Ulmer echoed that sentiment, noting that the board needs to be better prepared to make financial decisions.