School districts could be responsible for millions in additional expenses

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SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) — South Carolina school districts could face millions in additional fees if a proposal to raise teacher salaries reaches the Statehouse.

Dorchester School District 2 said a proposal puts them in a tight spot when preparing next year’s budget.

This is a potential additional cost that they may need to take into account when officials prepare next year’s budget.

“This is a proposal that would raise every teacher and teacher in the district, increase their salary by $4,000,” said DD2 Budget Committee Chairman Brian Mitchum.

With more than 1,700 eligible employees in DD2, the district is looking at approximately $9.4 million in additional costs.

While they don’t know if they have to spend the $9.4 million, there is a cost they know they have to pay.

“Dorchester District 2 is currently short of approximately $277 in salary for their $40,000 salary,” Mitchum said. “That’s a $210,000 shortfall that we can easily make up.”

Currently, state school budgets are in the hands of the state senate and go through a subcommittee.

The senate has yet to pass the $4,000 increase, and they are discussing a possible waiver to allow school districts to delay an increase for the coming year.

“This waiver is hopeful,” Mitchum said. “This is not a deal done by a stretch of the imagination. You know, we plan accordingly. All of this we just found out not too long ago, like in the last four or five days.

Jason Brockert, who has two children in DD2, says he hopes the potential new cost won’t prevent the district from hiring new teachers.

“I really hope they can move forward with those plans,” Brockert said. “Obviously, if they have to pay more in salary and operating expenses, they won’t be able to hire more teachers.”

In response, Mitchum says the district plans to hire more teachers and limit classroom sizes despite the potential additional cost.

“If we get the waiver, our budget is magnificent,” Mitchum said. “If we don’t get that waiver, we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and find a way to make sure that mandate gets managed.”

If the district has to pay the raise, Mitchum says he will ask the county council to raise taxes on small businesses.

If that doesn’t work, he says the district will have to dip into its reserve fund to cover expenses, but won’t cut any programs.

The final budget will be presented to the county in May.

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