The York school district is proposing a tax increase for next school year to help fund a budget calling for new positions and salary increases.
If approved, the increase would amount to $30 more in taxes each year on a $100,000 business or non-owner occupied home, or rental property, said Tim Cooper, public information officer for the district.
The tax increase will not affect homeowners due to Act 388, South Carolina’s property tax reform measure, which replaced a tax levy on primary residences with a one-cent sales tax increase on most retail purchases to pay for school operations. Act 388 left many school districts short on revenue, resulting in spending cuts.
On May 23, the York school board approved on first reading a balanced $44.5 million budget for the 2017-18 school year.
The budget sets aside $400,000 for a step increase for all eligible employees, $200,000 for increased operational costs and money for insurance and retirement cost increases, said Amy Hagner, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.
More than 86 percent of York’s budget is for salaries and costs related to employees.
The budget factors in $5,000 to upgrade the district’s open routing coordinator position to that of an assistant transportation director, Hagner said. The district has been studying how best to fill the position, which has been vacant since February.
York, a small district, has had multiple people handling safety, including bus safety and emergency preparedness, throughout the district, Hagner said. Now, York wants to put those responsibilies under one person within transportation.
If the budget is approved, the director of transportation will take on all district-wide safety, Hagner said.
Right now, safety is handled on an individual school level, and bringing it under one person at the district level will make emergency response more consistent across the district, Hagner said.
“It’s something we do an OK job at right now...but if we had an event, large or small, any time soon I don’t know that we would be prepared for that,” she said. “Safety is a huge concern for us and it’s something we need to work on. (This will) make us stronger in that area.”
The new assistant transportation director will take on the responsibilities of a routing coordinator as well as professional development of drivers, monitors and school administrators and driver recruitment and retention, Hagner said.
With the district’s new after-school Boys and Girls Club activities and athletic travel, transportation needs have changed, said Superintendent Vernon Prosser.
“Transportation has become a lot more than what it used to be,” he said. “We looked at what more we could do and are trying to get more out of a position.”
The assistant transportation director will also help create student safety, behavior and discipline programs that align practices at all of the schools in the district, Hagner said. Currently, different schools handle bus discipline in different ways, she said.
“There’s a big disconnect when it comes to student discipline in our schools,” Hagner said.
The goal, she said, is to have a streamlined process that students will be able to follow even as they change schools.
Bus driver recruitment and retention programs will also fall on the new assistant director. Kevin Queen has worked to build a relationship with drivers since becoming the director of transportation less than a year ago, helping tackle turnover and absences, Hagner said.
“He has done a really good job of bringing that group together,” she said. “We’re trying to build on that now and move forward.”
The budget also includes $70,000 for a new full-time elementary teacher at Hickory Grove-Sharon Elementary School.
The budget reduces the amount salaries are cut for retired employees. Currently, full-time working retirees receive a 10 percent salary reduction, Hagner said. The proposed budget calls for an 8 percent reduction instead, a cost of $40,000.
The balanced budget assumes the property tax increase and an increase of $85 in base student cost. The new base student cost, $2,435 per student, would bring the district $369,482 more compared to the current school year.
The first public hearing on the York school district budget is 6 p.m. June 13 at 1475 East Liberty Street in York.
At 7 p.m. that day, the board will hear the second and final reading of the budget.