Clover School District is proposing a $77.8 million general fund budget for 2016-17 that includes pay raises for bus drivers and other staff, and 27 more teaching positions.
School bus drivers during last year’s budget hearing pleaded for pay raises to lift them out of the poverty zone, arguing that many drivers can earn more in North Carolina.
Bus driver pay in this year’s proposed budget would increase 3.2 percent, or $3 an hour, making hourly pay starting at $12.72 and up to $19 based on experience.
“That will make us higher than any other district in York County,” Ken Love, assistant superintendent for business services, said during Monday’s school board budget hearing. “It should put us back above Gaston and Mecklenburg counties to make recruiting better.”
Love said school bus drivers work six hours a day and are eligible for health insurance. “It’s a hard job and extremely hard to fill,” Love said.
Board chair Mack McCarter said “This should hopefully attract some drivers.”
The proposed property tax increase, which would fall on businesses, owners of second homes and vehicles, would amount to $28.80 in taxes for each $100,000 of assessed value. The tax increase is lower than in previous years, Sosne said. Last year, the tax increase amounted to $36 in taxes for each $100,000 of assessed value.
Under South Carolina’s Act 388, which took effect in 2007, owner-occupied homes are exempt from property taxes that pay for school operations, although they continue to pay taxes for debt repayment.
The proposed budget also includes 2 percent increase in the teacher salary schedule, plus a salary step increase of about 2 percent for eligible teachers, at a cost of $760,150. It also would include a 2 percent pay increase for other employees, including assistants, cafeteria workers and custodians.
“It’s the first time for a base salary increase in four years,” Love said, explaining there has been a step increase for eligible employees but not an increase in base pay.
The 2016-17 proposed budget is $4.7 million higher compared to 2015-16. That increase is due to district growth, including about 400 more students at a cost of $2.4 million, as well as advancements in the need for technological learning.
The district’s one-to-one computer initiative “is eating up the budget as more students means more Internet and more infrastructure that costs in support, but relates to teaching costs,” Love said.
The one-to-one program that puts an iPad or laptop computer in the hands of each student was launched three years ago and the computer lease is up this year. Sosne said the cost now is primarily for new students.
“We’re refreshing the first machines this summer and the lease payment will go down,” Love said.
Included in the budget is $1.7 million toward adding 27 full-time teaching positions, Sosne explained, citing a need for more technical and specialist positions.
“We’re putting the vast majority of new positions in classrooms and teaching positions,” he said.
Other new positions budgeted at $210,000 include four custodians and one maintenance tech to maintain the new elementary and middle schools, both opening in August.
“There are 13.5 positions we know need to be filled now because of growth and ratios,” Love said. “Most growth is in owner-occupied homes.”
This budget, Sosne said, “maintains teacher-student ratio, minimizes increase in taxes and maintains high quality, top-notch employees.”
The board is expected to vote on the budget proposal during its June 27 meeting. The new budget year begins July 1.
The board also approved landscaping bids awarding Bailes Construction $131,649 for Oakridge Elementary School athletic field irrigation and sodding, and $168,765 for general irrigation and landscaping bid by Bethel Lawn and Landscaping.