Education

Lancaster County schools consider tax increase, teacher pay raises for 2019-’20

The scene at SC State House on May 1 as thousands of teachers rally

An estimated 7,000 teachers rallied on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at the South Carolina State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.
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An estimated 7,000 teachers rallied on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at the South Carolina State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.

Teacher raises and a tax increase are proposed in the Lancaster County School District’s 2019-2020 budget.

Lancaster’s preliminary $124 million budget is 10.4% higher than in 2018-’19, according to the district.

A public hearing will be 5:30 p.m. June 25 at the school district office, 300 South Catawba Street.

A proposed tax increase would amount to $50 more a year on a $100,000 business, said Tony Walker, chief finance officer for the district.

Tax increases apply only 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. Act 388 has led to a loss of revenue for public schools.

Schools are not fully funded under state law. By law, the base student cost should be $3,095 for 2019-’20, The Herald previously reported. The state has set the base student cost at $2,487.

Lancaster also must budget for teacher raises.

South Carolina lawmakers gave final approval earlier this month to a $9.3 billion state budget that includes a 4% pay raise for teachers and sets the starting teacher salary at $35,000, The Herald previously reported. Gov. Henry McMaster still needs to sign the budget into law.

The Lancaster school district will receive about $2.5 million from the state to fund the mandatory teacher pay raise, Walker said. The district will need to spend $900,000 for a step salary increase for teachers.

Lancaster’s proposed budget is funded with about $78 million in state revenue and $43.6 million in local money, Walker said.

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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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