Rock Hill schools’ budget plan increases pay without increasing taxes

dworthington@heraldonline.comMay 13, 2013 

  • What’s next

    The Rock Hill school board will meet next on May 28. More budget discussions are planned.

Rock Hill schools’ proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year will increase pay for more district employees, hire more personnel and implement the district’s iRock learning initiative – all without increasing taxes.

District officials unveiled a $129.1 million spending plan at Monday’s school board work session, proposing a 3.3 percent increase over this year’s $124.9 million budget.

The budget is preliminary because the district, as others statewide, is awaiting final funding numbers from the state. The numbers are solid enough, said district officials, to offer a plan that does not need a tax increase, or money from the school district’s reserves, to reach a balanced budget.

More board discussion and a public hearing will be held before the board adopts a budget.

The proposed budget calls for hiring to fill 14 positions – most of them technical – to implement the iRock initiative that calls for giving each student in fourth through eighth grades an iPad next fall. There is also money in the budget for more teacher training and other technology upgrades.

The budget plan allocates $235,000 to add custodians for the day shifts at all schools. The school system had hired a contractor to help clean schools, but the school board recently decided to change how it uses contractual services. School staff custodians will work the day shift while contracted crews will do the evening work.

Ten new teachers are in the budget plan to meet anticipated student growth. The average daily census of students is 16,980 this year, an increase of 221 students from 2011-12. The number of students is expected to increase for 2013-14.

Salary and benefits for the district’s teachers, administrators and support staff represent 86 percent – or $111.9 million – of the district’s budget plan.

As per state policy, teachers will advance one level on the state’s “step policy” that sets the basis for pay.

Teachers could see as much as a 3 percent increase, depending on what step they advance to. Some teachers would receive less than a 2percent increase, depending on what step they go to. Senior teachers at the top step would not see a pay increase as proposed.

The step increases vary as they are tied to the years when teachers are more likely to leave, said Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Support staff members are scheduled to get a 2 percent pay increase.

School board members asked if teachers would get the step increase and a 2 percent cost-of-living raise as the district has done in the past.

School officials said the proposed budget has money for the step increase for teachers but not an additional cost-of-living raise.

The proposed budget also includes up to $25,000 each for the district’s three high school bands and up to $5,000 for middle school band to pay the activity fees for students on free- or reduced-cost lunches.

Students who qualify for the subsidized lunches cannot be charged activity fees under federal law.

The board also reviewed plans to issue bonds to pay for the estimated 7,500 to 8,000 iPads the school district will buy for its iRock initiative.

The school board had considered leasing the computers from Apple but opted for an “acquisition contract” with a lender that allows the school board to use bond money to pay for the purchase.

The board also plans to refinance 2005 school bonds, saving the district at least $1 million.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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