CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) -Colleton County School District leaders are working to figure out how they can satisfy a nearly $1.1 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
Officials say it will likely require another millage increase of 4.41 mils. However, this would be the fourth millage increase for Colleton County residents and businesses in the last ten years, if it’s approved.
“I was the only board member that voted against it,” said William Bowman Jr. He’s a school board member and represents district four.
“I’m a business owner here in Walterboro. My wife and I own several pieces of property here in Walterboro, and over the last few years, our school district has already increased our millage. If this millage increase goes up, if this millage increase request is approved, in the last four years, the school district alone would have increased the millage on Colleton County citizens by a little more than 12 mils,” Bowman said. “I wasn’t in favor of that millage increase. I’m still not in favor of that millage increase, but we are going to have to do what’s best for our school district.”
The request has been brought to the Colleton County Council for consideration, and no decision has been made. However, the millage increase alone isn’t enough to fully balance the district’s budget.
The suggested increase would only reduce the projected deficit by $598,155.
“This budget is a proposed budget that is 2% higher than last year, but costs have gone up,” said Emily Temple, the district’s director of finance. “Your budget is going to increase every year because things cost more to operate.”
Like many other districts in the state, Colleton County School District is also working to find money in their budget to satisfy a state-mandated 4% pay raise for teachers, compensate for a base student cost that hasn’t been fully funded in over two decades, and improve the salaries of other district employees like custodians, school bus drivers, and teacher assistants.
“I personally wanted to, on top of that 4% increase that the state has mandated for us to give teachers, certified staff, I wanted to increase that another 4% for all of our staff to make the salaries in Colleton County a little bit more competitive to those of our neighbors and districts that are like us,” Bowman said. “It’s things like that, that we might not be able to do to the fullest extent that which we wanted to do it.”
To cut costs even further district leaders are also considering not filling some teacher vacancies.
The board will discuss the proposed FY 2019-2020 school district budget at a meeting to be held in the Board Room at the Colleton Annex Learning Center Thursday, June 13, beginning at 6 p.m.
District officials are encouraging community members to attend and show their support and share their concerns.