DD2 budget in the red; district proposes tax increase to meet needs

DD2 budget in the red, district proposes tax increase to meet needs

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Dorchester District 2 administrators and teachers packed the county's council chambers in support of their 20,000 students.

"We have done a whole lot with so little for so long," says Wally Baird, principal at Knightsville Elementary School.

According to the school district's chief financial officer, the $158 million budget falls $1 million short.

She says in the last four years cuts have totaled $27 million and the district can't afford anymore.

"We're just trying to maintain our current budget or our current program," explains CFO Allyson Duke. "We're not able to add anything additional that the other districts may have."

To make up for that $1 million deficit, there are two options. The district can either dip into a reserve fund or county council can pass a proposed tax hike on second homes, cars, and businesses.

The budget includes hiring 23 new teachers, a two-percent raise for teachers, and a $100,000 increase in the district's contract with Durham School Services, which runs buses for DD2.

"We just want what other school districts have," says Baird. "Let's go up to the average so that we can meet the needs of our kids."

The district spends roughly $1,000 less on each student than both the Berkeley and Charleston County school districts. Council member Jay Byars says a tough decision lies ahead.

"Everybody's very tight. Homeowners are very tight. You want to watch every single penny and make sure they get every penny of their investment. You also need to make sure that you understand that public education is an investment, and you don't get and opportunity to get those kids back."

Some items on the district's "wish list" are eight school resource officers for the elementary schools, more school buses, and restoring extracurricular stipends.

The council says it's not clear yet how much the tax hike would be. County council will vote on the proposal  June 3rd.