Education

3 things to know about Horry County Schools’ 2015-16 budget

What you need to know before you go to Horry County Schools’ public hearing on the proposed 2015-16 budget, which is $91.9 million above lat year’s budget.
What you need to know before you go to Horry County Schools’ public hearing on the proposed 2015-16 budget, which is $91.9 million above lat year’s budget. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Horry County Schools’ proposed 2015-16 budget is expected to be more than $91.9 million above last year’s budget, but millage rates levied by the district will stay steady at 133.1 mills.

There will be a public hearing and approval of the budget on June 15, with a possible final approval on June 29. Anyone wishing to make a public comment is asked to register before the meeting at the district’s website.

The three biggest changes to the district’s budget over last year:

School building funds

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

The $72.9 million is needed this fiscal year because the district is closing in on final designs for the new schools.

“Within the next fiscal year we’ll begin building four new middle schools and one new elementary school,” said John Gardner, chief financial officer for the district.

Funding for the new schools comes from property taxes and an additional 1 percent sales tax toward capital improvements, Gardner said.

“There is no impact on the taxpayer; we’re not raising millage,” Gardner said.

The district has selected four firms to submit Requests for Proposals to build the schools, and Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said the schools should be complete by 2017. The board decided to use a design-build project delivery system for its five new schools, which means a single firm performs both design and construction for each project.

Salary increase for all regular employees

The district is planning a 2 percent salary increase for all regular employees, even those who are not yet eligible for their step increases, Gardner said.

Funding that increase adds up to $1.2 million, Gardner said. Teachers were granted a 2 percent step increase during the 2012-13 school year, but there has not been a salary adjustment for staff as a whole since then.

DeFeo, who voted against the annual raise in favor of a one-time 2 percent bonus, said he’s worried the $1.2 million cost could become an annual expense.

“With our budget moving forward into the next four to five years, that’s my main concern,” he said. “I’m sure it will be up for discussion next year, to see if we continue this.”

PDL staffing, grade addition

The board voted in February to expand the Personalized Digital Learning, or PDL, initiative – which gives each student a digital device – to fifth grade students. Middle school students received Apple iPads in 2013 and high school students were given Dell Venue tablets in August 2014.

The district has set aside $558,000 for the fifth grade addition, plus about $850,000 for school-based technology support staff at middle and high schools.

“The funding is something we approved several years ago, but it does have some impact on this year’s budget,” DeFeo said.

The board voted to only expand the initiative to fifth grade after several weeks of debate.

“We were trying to implement PDL in the easiest way possible, and we wanted to have everything settled in the other grades first,” DeFeo said. “We just wanted everything in place before giving it to younger grades.”

The budget public hearing is Monday at 6 p.m. at the district office, 335 Four Mile Rd., Conway.

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

If you go:

What | Horry County Schools 2015-16 budget public hearing

When | Monday, 6 p.m.

Where | 335 Four Mile Rd., Conway

For info | 488-6700

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