Rock Hill schools balancing budget

School board member Elizabeth Ann Reid
School board member Elizabeth Ann Reid

The Rock Hill school board wants to strike a balance between increasing class sizes and raising pay for nonclassroom personnel.

The proposed 2015-2016 budget calls for a 2 percent raise for nonclassroom personnel.

The proposed raise is equal to a 2-percent-on-average raise proposed for teachers.

Teacher raises, called a step increase, are mandated by the state but set locally.

To balance the proposed budget, school district administrators Monday recommended increasing the number of students in a classroom by one on average, eliminating the need for nine teachers and saving $585,000. No current teacher would lose his or her job; the reductions would come from teachers leaving or retiring.

The $585,000 was one of the significant reductions proposed by the administration to achieve a balanced budget of $138,930,000.

As initially proposed, school expenses were $2.7 million more than projected revenue. Superintendent Kelly Pew said the administration felt it was essential to propose a balance budget. Last year, the board approved taking money from reserves to balance the district’s budget.

The proposed ratio of teachers to students for 2015-2016 is 1-to-24 for kindergarten through third grade, 1-to-25 for fourth and fifth grades and 1-to-27 for grades six through high school.

District administrators stressed those numbers are flexible.

School board member Ann Reid said it is vital to have the lowest teacher-student ratio in the beginning grades; those are the grades in which students learn the essential building blocks of math and reading, she said.

Reid said a teacher-student ratio of 1-to-24 in kindergarten “was a big number.”

Board member Helena Miller said she recalls as a parent having a student in a class that was close to requiring another teacher, but another class wasn’t added. She described the stress that createed on the students, teachers and parents.

Board member Jane Sharp asked if the raises could be limited to those nonteaching positions earning the smallest wages and not to higher-paid staff and administrative support positions.

Pew said the nonteaching employees, be they bus drivers, cafeteria workers or custodians, have an effect on the classroom.

Even if the board were to adjust the pay raise for nonteaching positions, it would not reach the required funding to maintain current teacher-student ratios.

No action was taken on the budget at Monday’s work session.

The school board must submit a budget to the state by July 1; the next regularly scheduled board meeting is June 22.

In other action Monday, Pew said the practice of “late start,” in which students arrive two hours later than usual, will be discontinued in the upcoming school year.

The late start allowed the school district to schedule professional development time for teachers.

Pew said the district would find different times for professional development.

Don Worthington • 803-329-4066