Horry County Board of Education leans toward employee salary increase

The Horry County Board of Education took a non-binding vote Tuesday to give all employees a salary increase next year, including staff who are not eligible for a step increase.

The “Committee of the Whole” voted 8-3 to give all salaried employees an increase; the committee’s votes are nonbinding but were made final when the board gave preliminary approval to the budget.

There will be a public hearing and approval of the budget on June 15, with a possible final approval on June 29.

Chairman Joe DeFeo, Vice Chairman David Cox and district five representative Janice Morreale voted against the increase. Pamm Timms, district six representative, was not present.

Employees eligible for a step increase will be given that increase but not the 2 percent raise, according to John Gardner, chief financial officer for the district. All staff not eligible for a step increase will receive the 2 percent raise instead.

The increase will be in effect every year if given final approval by the board, Gardner said.

John Poston, district eight representative, said the increase is a good step for the district.

“We have tons of money in reserves – how do you have that much money and not give our employees raises?” Poston said.

David Cox, vice chairman, voted against the increase. He said he preferred giving staff a two percent bonus just for this year, but the motion for a yearly salary increase was made before he could motion for a bonus.

“I though a bonus would be a good way to reward employees,” Cox said.

The cost for each employee to receive a raise is $1.2 million, Gardner said. Teachers were granted a two percent step increase during the 2012-13 school year, but there has not been a salary adjustment for staff as a whole since that year, Gardner said.

Gardner said the budget allows for an $18.1 million unassigned fund balance by June 30, 2016, which is money the district can spend on anything.

Poston said district employees deserve a raise, especially given the amount of excess funds the district sets aside each year.

“If we were running a deficit, I would see it differently,” Poston said.

DeFeo , board chairman, disagreed.

“I don’t think adding a $1.2 million expense to our budget is the right thing to do,” DeFeo said.

Cox said he would not vote in favor of cutting the two percent increase next year, even though board members have that power. However, the yearly increase will cost the district more than Cox wanted to spend every year.

“It’s a lot of money, and it’s not our money,” he said. “It’s taxpayer’s money, and we have to be responsible with it.”

The board also gave unanimous preliminary approval to the 2015-16 budget, which is expected to be more than $91.9 million above last year’s budget due to new school building costs.

The board approved several motions Tuesday during their regular board meeting, including adding 15 English for Speakers of Other Languages teachers and giving clerical staff additional work days during the summer. The motions were all passed during “Committee of the Whole” discussions; the committee’s votes are nonbinding but were made final when the board gave preliminary approval to the budget.

Most of the proposed budget’s increase comes from the school building fund, which requires an extra $72.9 million during the 2015-16 fiscal year. The total cost of the school building project is $451.6 million, to build five new schools and renovate two others over about 10 years.

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.