DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A Dorchester District 2 teacher presented a petition during Monday’s Dorchester County Council meeting with over a thousand signatures.
Community members asked the council to reopen negotiations with the school district for their 2019-2020 operating budget.
The school district estimated that it would have about an $8 million shortfall for the budget it created. That’s why Dorchester County Council approved a tax hike by 7.8 mills, or approximately $2.1 million, that will impact businesses and rental properties taxed at 6 percent.
County officials say that the tax hike, along with the county’s increased revenue projection, added nearly $3.1 million to the school district’s budget.
Teachers and community members argue that more needs to be done if the school district wants to increase pay and compete with surrounding school districts.
Dorchester District 2 teacher MaryRita Watson says that the county should consider increasing the school district’s budget by the amount that was originally discussed.
“7.8 (mil) is what they gave to us," Watson said."The conversation at one point had been 13.8 (mil). So how it went down 6 mil, that was the question we all had. What happened?”
Joseph Pye, the superintendent for Dorchester District 2 Schools, says that he supports the teachers and their advocacy, but also understands how difficult it is for the county to come up with the money.
“Every year we come begging, the budget gets bigger and bigger, and their funding becomes less and less, “ said Pye. “It’s just that match up, and this is something that the state of South Carolina needs to fix.”
The school district approved the $213 million budget in June.
With that additional money Pye says they were able to add a school resource officer for Givhans Alternative School, hire four mental health counselors, and increase some teacher pay.
Although the council said they couldn’t take any action at this meeting, they are more than willing to enter in conversations with the school district about the budget.
Some council members even offered some ideas about how to improve communication and avoid more budget problems in the future.
“I think that the county council and District 2 should talk," Vice Chairman David Chinnis said. "I think we should even sit down and create a five year financial year plan.”