District’s finance committee recommends tax increase to fund teacher pay raises

The Charleston County School District hopes a proposed and recommended budget will help remedy cost of living issues for teachers & encourage teacher retention
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:01 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 6:27 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District hopes a proposed and recommended budget will help remedy cost of living issues for teachers and encourage teacher retention.

Teachers and community members have been working with officials to create a comprehensive plan to raise teacher pay since August of last year.

Now such a plan exists, with the district hoping to get the funds to pay the raises from increases in property taxes.

A petition started in May showcased continued support for a tax increase to assist in raising teacher pay. Petition creator, Patrick Martin, hopes it carries the momentum through the finish line. Martin teaches high school English in Charleston County.

“We find sometimes there’s an area in the middle where the communication gets lost, and then the momentum might get lost,” Martin says. “And so we’ve been building the momentum all year, been building community support, we have massive community support. Thousands of people have reached out these are parents, and these are community members. These are business members, and they all support this. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to the school board.”

The Charleston County Staff and Finance Committee are supporting a version that Martin says teachers are also excited about. The recommended budget would bump the starting salary to $50,928. First-year teachers make $43,146 on average.

Teachers at every level would see some kind of boost to their annual salaries somewhere between 4% and 18%.

Martin says this has been an encouraging experience and is looking forward to seeing the reward.

“This year, we had a special opportunity to work directly with CCSD with people in the Human Resources Department to take the advocate advocacy work to even a higher level,” Martin says. “So we’re very excited to be in the final stages of a year-long push we started meeting in August.”

The budget would increase property taxes through a rate known as millage. The 7.1 millage increase in taxes would bring in $23.1 million more for the district. The projected teacher raises would cost the district an estimated $31 million.

The millage version of taxes does not affect owner-occupied homes or homeowners. For properties like rentals and second homes, the proposed plan would create a $133 per year tax change. The tax would affect personal property payments, on things like a car or a boat, by about $5 per year on each piece of property.

Superintendent Don Kennedy says this budget was a massive collaboration between staff at every level, and he thinks it encompasses a lot of goals for the future school year.

“Most people know the cost of living is severely high compared to a lot of places in the southeast, and we have been having a tremendous issue with teacher recruitment and teacher retention,” Kennedy says. “So I think this budget really addresses that and makes sure that we express monetarily, in a monetary way, the value that we place on our teachers.”