Rock Hill schools’ $129.1 million budget advances

dworthington@heraldonline.com June 10, 2013 

— With no resident reaction and little board member comment, the Rock Hill school district’s $129.1 million budget proposal for 2013-2014 moved a step closer to adoption Monday.

No one spoke during the public hearing on the proposed budget which includes funds for the district’s iRock digital education initiative that would put an iPad tablet computer in the hands of every student in grades four through eight and includes hiring 29 new people, including 10 teachers.

No tax increase is proposed and the budget is balanced without taking funds from the district’s reserves.

School board member Ginny Moe was concerned, however, with raises for teachers who are at the top of the pay scale.

As proposed, those teachers would receive a 1 percent bonus during the middle of the school year. Other teachers are being moved up one level on the pay scale, about a 2 percent salary increase. The budget includes a 2 percent raise for other staff.

“These are our master teachers,” Moe said. “I don’t like shortchanging them.”

She asked if a 2 percent bonus was possible, but her proposal didn’t get support of the board.

Board member Mildred Douglas noted that teachers know “going in” that at the later stages of their career they reach a “cutoff period” for their salary. “They should be excited about getting the bonus,” Douglas said.

Board member Walter Brown said pay raises for long-term employees is challenge in any business. “When you reach the top of the scale the chances of raises are very slim,” he said.

The 1 percent bonus is expected to cost the district about $175,000, said Elaine Bilton, the district’s executive director of finance.

The 2 percent step increase for teachers is expected to cost about $1 million and the 2 percent raise for staff about $500,000.

Bilton said the step scale is initially set by the state, but Rock Hill’s scale is 13.6 percent above the state’s. Salaries account for 88 percent of the proposed expenses.

The budget proposal is a 3.3 percent increase over the current budget of $124.9 million.

Bilton said the congressional sequester budget cut should have minimal effect on next year’s budget as the school district has permission to carry over funds from this year’s budget.

A board vote on the budget is scheduled for June 24.

The board also discussed several other financial items Monday, including three bond sales.

One would be an $8 million tax anticipation note to cover the district’s expenses while it awaits tax payments. Historically, the district has issued anticipation notes instead of dipping into reserves.

Also proposed is a $1.5 million technology bond which would purchase about 500 Mac Book Pro computers for teachers, replacing about 300 aging desktop computers, and spending $500,000 to improve the school system’s computer network.

Board Chairman Jim Vining said it might be time for the district to get out of the business of providing teachers with computers and instead give them an allowance to buy what they want.

The district also is moving forward with issuing $3.5 million in bonds for renovations and repairs at various schools, as well as making safety improvements recently recommended by a consultant.

The board discussed, but took no action on, increasing the amount of funds the school district should have in reserves. The current reserve is about 12 percent of the budget. The board is considering raising the reserve over several years to 17 percent.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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