Education

Rock Hill schools mull tax increase, teacher pay raises in 2019-20 budget

Thousands of teachers march to SC State House

South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.
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South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.

Rock Hill business owners may soon be paying more to support education.

Rock Hill school district leaders are proposing a tax increase in the district’s 2019-20 budget, said Terri Smith, chief finance officer for the district. Smith presented a budget update at the May 13 school board meeting.

The increase would amount to $36 more in taxes each year on a $100,000 business, according to the district. The tax increase will bring in an additional $1.8 million.

Tax increases only apply to businesses, non-owner occupied homes and rental properties. Act 388, South Carolina’s property tax reform measure, replaced tax on primary homes with a one-time sales tax increase on retail purchases to support school operations.

The move has meant a loss of revenue for school districts.

There is not yet a proposed budget total, said Mychal Frost, spokesperson for the district. Residents can learn more at 6 p.m. May 21 at Rock Hill school district office.

Here are the budget highlights:

  • The district will receive $3.5 million from the state for a mandated 4 percent salary increase for teachers (a total cost of $4.1 million) and an increase in the starting pay for teachers to $35,000.
  • After funding from the state, the district will need to spend $1.9 million to cover teacher salary increases, including a step increase for teachers ($1.3 million).
  • All other employees will receive a four percent cost of living salary increase, which will cost the district $1.5 million.
  • The district has received more than $15 million in funding requests. Of those, more than $5 million is related to safety and security. About $5 million is related to recruitment and retention. Student achievement related requests add to more than $6 million.

The base student cost has not been finalized for 2019-20, Smith said. Under state law, the base student cost should be $3,095, she said. The House has proposed $2,467 and the Senate has proposed $2,487.

The base student cost for 2018-19 is $2,480.

Since 1977, the base student cost has been fully funded nine times, Smith said.

“I’m disappointed in the lack of support coming from the state,” Helena Miller, Rock Hill school board chair, said during the meeting. “We’re desperately underfunded.”

Education funding was one of the issues educators from across the state highlighted during a May 1 rally at the statehouse. More than 10,000 educators and supporters joined in the march.

“We want to help the Legislature to understand that we want education to be fully funded,” Saani Perry, a Fort Mill teacher, said before the rally. “If we can fully fund education that will take care of a bulk of the issues we see.”

The Rock Hill school district has scheduled two public meetings: May 21 and June 10. The school board expects to approve its budget June 24.

Public meetings

Budget Listen and Learn: 6 p.m. May 21 at the Rock Hill school district office, 386 E Black St.

Public hearing on the budget: 6 p.m. June 10 at the district office.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.

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