"The General Assembly didn’t really do anything for teachers.”
For the sixth consecutive year, property taxes will not increase for school operations in District 56.
Using a combination of more state money and revenue from county growth, and revenue from the fund balance, the district is balancing a $26.6 million budget without notifying the county of the need for a property tax increase. But the balanced budget is providing a $482,000 “hit” to the district’s fund balance, and the district’s Board of Trustees was told Monday night that is not sustainable.
Teachers will get a 4% salary increase. Starting teachers will be paid $35,000/annual. Both are state-funded, but the base-student cost will increase just $10 (normally $50-$60/annual).
That’s not enough to fully fund “step increases” – formerly a state, now a district responsibility – and raises for other employees. It’s “an atrocity” that state lawmakers are able to boast about “doing so much for teachers” while placing additional burdens on districts, Chairman Jim Barton said.
The budget passed on a 6-1 vote. Board Member Tammy Stewart voted “no”; she said the board needs a more complete explanation of the administrative salary scale, and needs to revisit the supplementary (coaches, organization sponsors, etc.) salary scale before moving forward.
Keeping the local tax levy at 167.5 mils passed on a 7-0 board vote.
By taking money from reserves to fund “state mandates,” the FY19-20 budget is balanced at $26.6 million.
“We might be Red Devils but we like our finances in the black,” Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said.
The district will pay $482,000 next year to cover “state mandates,” the board was told. Taking that much from reserves year-after-year, without more revenue, is not sustainable, O’Shields said.
In District 56, all teachers will receive a 4% raise – state funded. All starting teachers will be paid $35,000/annual – state funded. All other employees, except administrators, will receive a 4% raise – district funded. Those on the administrative scale will receive a 1% raise – district funding.
All employees certified as teachers will receive a “step” increase – district funded now, formerly state funded. That alone is an additional $250,000 expense to District 56.
Other employees’ raises, increases for 27 teaching positions that are federally funded, and universal screening for K-3 (required three times a year for kindergarten) make up the rest of the $482,000 “hit” to the District 56 reserves.
Normally, these expenses could be covered by a $50-$60/pupil increase in the base-student cost.
Next year, the base-student cost will increase by $10/pupil.
The board was told if the General Assembly was funding the base-student cost at a level required by state law, it would be more than $3,000/pupil. Next year, the base-student costs statewide will be $2,490/pupil.
“Given where we are with the costs not covered by the 4% (salary) increase passed by the state – that’s about $500,000 more cost to the district – we will deal with it,” O’Shields said. “It is an unfunded mandate.”
O’Shields said it is a complement to the Laurens County government that some of these costs are offset by county growth. He said part of this is attributable to the increased revenue brought in by FILOTs (fees in lieu of taxes paid by industries).
He said, “But we have to ask at what point could we no longer bear (a) $500,000 (hit to the bottom line)?”
Barton said, by shifting spending burdens to local districts, “The General Assembly didn’t really do anything for teachers.”
The District 56 Board of Trustees will not meet in July. Meetings resume in August on the normal 4th Monday of the month schedule, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Most meetings are conducted in the Clinton High School auditorium and are open to the public. Each meeting has a time for public participation.