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Most Rock Hill schools employees to get raises

After three years of pay cuts and wage freezes, Rock Hill school district employees will get a raise.

The school board on Monday voted 6-1 to move forward with Superintendent Lynn Moody's proposal to give all support staff and administrators who make less than the top salary for their jobs a raise of 1.5 percent. Any employees not eligible for the raise will get a $500 bonus.

The decision followed the board's vote last month to reinstate teachers' annual "step increase."

Giving all 2,300 employees a salary bump will cost about $1.8 million. That money will come from a $3.9 million surplus from last school year.

Moody said she tried to craft a plan that included "something for everyone."

"It's the fairest across the board for our team as a whole," she said. "And that's how we should move our district - as a whole."

The school board had considered an alternate option that would have, instead of a raise, given all non-teachers a $500 bonus.

In the last three years, the Rock Hill school board has enacted wage freezes and sent employees on unpaid leave to help curb spending as state money for education shrank.

Moody has said she worries that's made the district less competitive in attracting employees since neighboring districts haven't decreased their salary scales as severely.

Jim Vining was the only one of the seven school board members to vote against the raises.

"I support something that does something for all employees," he said, but he was concerned that the district wouldn't be able to sustain the cost of higher salaries over time.

It's "too risky, financially," he said.

Other board members expressed similar concerns, but Chairman Bob Norwood said he felt comfortable because the district budgets conservatively and is seeing significant savings from a new energy management program.

Moody said she would have preferred to give higher raises and more than a one-time bonus to the district's most experienced teachers, but considers her recommendation a "reasonable answer given the circumstances we were in."

"It really doesn't answer everything we need to do," she said. But "it's what we felt like we could sustain."

About half of the $3.9 million surplus comes from an unexpected $400,000 the state sent for textbooks and $1.5 million from late fees on property tax bills.

The rest of the money, according to the district, comes from savings on energy use, supplies and facilities services and over-budgeting for unemployment costs.

The district is spending most of the surplus on employee raises, refunding families "academic fees," and hiring five more teachers.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized school board Chairman Bob Norwood's reasons for supporting Superintendent Lynn Moody's plan.