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Pay raises coming for Horry Schools employees? Board wants to study compensation

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South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.

Horry County’s largest employer is considering mass compensation improvements, but first it wants to study what its competitors are paying.

Horry County Schools Board Chairman Ken Richardson introduced the prospect of a comprehensive employee compensation study during Monday’s board work session, and nearly every other member voiced support for the idea.

“In order for us to be a top-tier school (district), I feel we need to know what the top-tier schools are doing and what they’re paying,” Richardson said. “We’re in a situation where everything comes down to money. … We are in need of good people, and we’re losing people to other areas.”

He noted that the district hasn’t completed such a study in more than a decade, and he said that for HCS to be a top three school district in the state, which he believes it should, they need to pay like one.

Board Member David Cox, who chairs the Human Resources Committee, recalled that the board hired a company a couple years ago to do a salary study, but that the results were “abysmal” and they didn’t end up paying the company “because they didn’t leave us with any information.”

Board members Chris Hardwick and Sherrie Todd suggested having the district’s human resources staff conduct the study to avoid spending more money, but others pointed out that the study would be time-consuming, and a third-party perspective would give the results more credibility.

The South Carolina Legislature recently passed mandatory pay increases for teachers and more may be on the way, but Richardson noted that this study would include every school district employee, some who he’s learned haven’t received a raise in 12 years.

Board Member John Poston said the study should focus on more than just salaries because those entering the workforce care about many other factors, including health benefits, training opportunities and work hours.

“I work at a place where we do (an employee compensation study) annually,” said board member Neil James, who works for Santee Cooper. “And we did it because we were losing talented individuals. Horry County Schools is not different.”

Cox specifically mentioned former North Myrtle Beach Principal Trevor Strawderman, who recently left to take a job in Charleston, as an example of losing talent they might have kept with better compensation.

The board didn’t take a vote to officially pursue a study Monday, but Richardson reiterated that this is a priority for him.

“A lot of times, if we talk about something and we really don’t want to do anything about it, we decide to study it,” he said. “Well, we’re going to do this study, and when we get this study done, … we need to be prepared to act.”

Richardson has been adamant about not raising taxes and reiterated that stance despite the additional funds that would be needed to raise employee compensation. He told The Sun News that there are “ways to trim things in the budget,” but he declined to elaborate on potential options.

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