District budgets $5K bonus for teachers

Dr. Green and William Frick

WINNSBORO – Hoping it will help recruit and retain teachers, the Fairfield County School District plans to dole out annual bonuses – $5,000 for educators and $3,000 for district and school staff.

At its monthly meeting Tuesday night, the board voted 5-1 to award the bonuses. Board member Paula Hartman voted against the measure.

Hartman said she’s not against bonuses, but felt caught off guard by the bonus proposal. She noted the district previously discussed using surplus funds to commission a salary study.

“I’ve asked for salaries every year I’ve been on the board, and they don’t give it,” she said.

At $49,288, Fairfield County’s average annual teacher salary ranks 37th out of 82 districts in South Carolina, according to state report card data.

Richland 2 ranks sixth at $51,802. Lexington 5-Richland leads at $55,023, while Florence 4 is last at $43,087, report card data shows.

Hartman also expressed reservations about budgeting money that doesn’t exist yet.

“I thought this was going to come up in the budget. I didn’t think this was going to come up now,” Hartman said. “I feel like it would be more of an incentive for employees who’ve been here three years and have a commitment. That might keep them here.”

It will cost the district $2.8 million to fully fund bonuses for 2019. Bonuses would be available to any existing full-time employee, no matter the length of employment, as well as future full-time hires, district officials said.

The first $1 million comes from a surplus carried over from last calendar year, money Superintendent Dr. Jr. Green has previously stated would be applied to boosting teacher pay.

Green said during the meeting that the general fund would increase by $1.8 million to cover the rest.

“I am hoping this inspires people who aren’t part of Fairfield County to be inspired to join Fairfield County,” Green said.

Board chairman William Frick said after the meeting that the source of the $1.8 million comes from presently unbudgeted surplus funds the district anticipates receiving.

“There is a forecast that next fiscal year we’ll have an additional $2 million that can be rolled over instead of allocating it toward capital projects as we’ve done,” Frick said. “The idea is to take that entire $2 million to fund this.”

There are no tenure requirements for the bonuses; Green said he plans to make them an annual perk. He said this is an annual program, adding it would take a major economic downturn to cut bonuses, a downturn he thought was unlikely.

All employees would be eligible, including district office administrators, though board members said they don’t know if Green would qualify for a bonus since he’s a contract employee.

If Dr. Green did receive a $3,000 bonus, it would bump his annual salary from $182,287 to $185,287.

Green also has an annuity contribution of $29,165, though district officials still can’t say whether the annuity is paid from the district budget or by Green personally. The Voice filed a public records request for that information on Dec. 19, 2018, and is still waiting for clarification.

District officials said Tuesday that a bonus is better than a conventional salary increase because the district and employees aren’t required to contribute a percentage into retirement funds for bonuses.

However, the federal government taxes most bonuses at 22 percent, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

That means a school district employee receiving a $5,000 bonus would take home $3,900 after federal taxes. A $3,000 bonus translates to $2,340 after federal taxes.