Dorchester County Council approves additional $3.5 million for DD2 budget; includes tax increase

Dorchester County News

Dorchester School District 2 will be receiving an additional $3.5 million for its 2019-2020 budget from both a tax increase and additional revenues. Both were approved by Dorchester County Council on Monday evening.

The additional approved funding was part of an amendment that was made to the county’s yearly budget before it was passed on its third and final reading. The school district was given approximately $1.4 million dollars in existing county revenues and $2.1 million dollars in the form of a 7.8 mil tax increase. The tax increase equates to an additional $93.60 on a property tax bill for a $200,000 building, and is only charged on secondary and rental homes and businesses, not owner-occupied homes.

Last month, the district said it had a $7.8 million budget deficit and it requested the funding from county council.

While the DD2 school board will determine how the money will be spent, the county said the additional funding should pay be able to pay for a mandated 4 percent salary increase for teachers, higher pay for staff other than teachers, a 1 percent retirement increase, an additional school resource officer at the Givhans Alternative Program and funding for mental health programs.

County Council Chairman George Bailey said the county decided to fund about half of what the district asked for after reaching out to the South Carolina Department of Education.

“I contacted the State Department of Education and found out what was coming down for Dorchester County,” said Chairman Bailey. “And we came up with the idea that there was a lot more money coming into the school district than I think they realized, and we realized two weeks ago.”

DD2 officials said one of the reasons the district was seeking additional funding was to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 dollars, to stay competitive with neighboring districts. Chief Financial Officer Allyson Duke said she is not sure if that is possible now.

“It’s not possible with what they’ve given us,” said Duke. “Now, do they want us to go back and look at our priorities or see what we could do – Could we not do as much to other staff? Could we give a little bit to the teachers? I don’t know.”

Duke said it appears that $38,000 could be the new minimum salary for teachers in DD2 but stressed that the school board could adjust funding in other areas to increase the minimum salary.

Another need that the district outlined to county council last month was to hire more teachers to maintain class sizes. Duke said that might be possible.

“We’re hoping that between the monies they have given us, we’ll be able to perhaps hire enough teachers to cover the growth, we hope,” she said.

Both Duke and Chairman Bailey said that more education funding reform still has to happen at the state level.

“We see good things coming out of school district 2, [but] they need more money from Columbia,” said Chairman Bailey.

The school board will meet next Monday to begin making decisions on how it will spend its funding for the upcoming school year.

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