FCSD Board spars over employee salaries

WINNSBORO – Next year’s proposed budget includes pay raises for all school district employees, but some Fairfield County Board of Education members want to spend more.

The board held a lively discussion Tuesday evening before unanimously passing first reading on the $41.2 million budget.

Among the most vocal was board member Annie McDaniel, who took issue with comparatively high supplements she says some coaches are paid versus salaries of classified employees, such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

“Before we give another supplement, we need to look at it on the table what we’re paying classified people,” McDaniel said. “It was sad looking at the supplements compared to what we were paying employees who work 180 or 190 days a year.”

The proposed $41.2 million budget is about $2.5 million higher than the one approved last year. Millage would remain at 203.1 mills. Fairfield County Schools hasn’t raised millage since 2010, said Kevin Robinson, the district’s finance director.

Robinson said the district is anticipating an increase in non-residential property tax revenue. Because of that, the draft budget recommends step increases as well as a 2 percent across the board raise for all employees.

District Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green said there’s been talk at the state level about budgeting higher pay for educators, but nothing definite.

“We recognize the state probably won’t mandate 2 percent and they probably won’t mandate the classified employees,” Green said. “We’re doing 2 percent across the board to make salary increases effective for all employees.”

While board members were happy to increase pay, some took issue with implementing a percentage increase, saying it disproportionately favors higher paying employees.

“When you’re looking at 2 percent on $20,000 versus 2 percent on $110,000, that’s a big difference,” McDaniel said.

Board member Paula Hartman agreed.

“We should do straight amounts. That’s more fair to me,” Hartman said. “The people working in the cafeterias and cleaning up don’t make as much so they don’t get as much.”

Green said he favored raises by percentages.

“To suggest we use a specific number instead of a percentage doesn’t seem to be very realistic, in my opinion,” he said.

Robinson said the budget also includes $325,000 for five new school resource officers, which works to about $65,000 per officer. Green said the funding covers the officers’ salaries and benefits, while Fairfield County would cover vehicle, equipment and training costs.

“We wanted to have enough money to cover the additional cost of five officers,” Green said.

Gov. Henry McMaster has said he wants to invest millions of dollars statewide on SROs, a request that comes in the wake of recent school shootings elsewhere in the country, but no bills have been passed.

“As much as people have talked about that at the state level, the funding of resource officers have filtered down to the local level,” Green said. “It doesn’t look like the state will be providing any money.”

Board members also reopened debate on an old topic – a 2010 law that allows students in the Mitford community of northeast Fairfield County to attend Chester County schools at Fairfield County school district’s expense. The proposed budget for 2018-2019 estimates student transfer costs at $626,436, a nearly $75,000 increase over this year, according to Fairfield County School District budget figures.

Some board members said they want more accountability of the money it sends to Chester County. Others want an attorney to take a second look at the Chester ruling.

“I don’t think they intended for it to go on and on forever,” McDaniel said. “We need to look at that, we’re sending a lot of money over there.”