School budget talks heat up

WINNSBORO – An apparently routine budget vote turned into a heated debate about how to address salaries in the Fairfield County School District.

During discussion of the proposed $41.3 million budget, trustee Annie McDaniel said she wanted a deeper discussion about increasing salaries for support staff, some of whom she said make less than $20,000 a year.

That led to confusion, followed by frustration, over determining exactly what the scope of that discussion should entail.

Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green said his long-term goal is to assemble a comprehensive salary review for all employees.

Green said he wants to present something sometime next year, but estimated the plan would potentially cost several million dollars.

“Obviously I would love to see us make an adjustment to our salary schedule that positively impacts all of our employees,” Green said. “I would love to see teachers make more, I would love to see custodial staff make more, clerical staff and bus drivers.”

McDaniel didn’t discount that, but also said support staff deserves particular attention.

“I thought we were just going to talk about it and give you the opportunity to review it,” McDaniel said, responding to Green.

Board chairman William Frick said he was having difficulty discerning exactly what salary information McDaniel was seeking.

“I just want to be clear about what we want to do,” Frick said. “We say we want to have a meeting about salaries. What do we want to look at? I don’t know what you’re asking.”

“Because you’re trying to make it complicated,” McDaniel replied.

“No. Ms. McDaniel. I’ve been on this board for five years, and every time someone gives you information, you tell them that’s not what you wanted,” Frick fired back. “So I want to make sure we’ve got the information that you want.”

“No, no you need to take that back,” McDaniel answered. “Since you’ve been on this board, you have not been giving us information.

“I don’t understand why we make a federal issue out of just looking at information, which may not warrant any recommendation for an increase,” McDaniel continued.

In the end, the board voted 5-2 to approve second reading of the budget.

As it stands, the proposed budget does not include a tax increase.

Included in the budget are step increases and a 2 percent, across the board salary increase for all employees. It also includes funding for additional school resource officers.

The proposed budget also increases the annual band stipend by $10,000. It also includes $1,500 stipend increases for boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches.

Lastly, estimated health insurance costs dropped $13,000.

Third and final reading is expected during the June board meeting. McDaniel also insisted that a deeper discussion of support staff salaries be added to the agenda.