COLUMBIA, SC — The Richland 1 school board on Tuesday approved a $268.4 million budget for 2013-14 that provides six additional teachers for early childhood education classes, places a school resource officer in every school and establishes an educator development office.
Board members felt confident enough with the budget outlook to grant a $2,850 raise for themselves, increasing annual pay for the part-time position by 42 percent, from $6,750 to $9,600. Board member Jamie Devine introduced the motion, which was approved by members Aaron Bishop, Vince Ford and Cheryl Harris. Board members Susie Dibble and Beatrice King opposed the motion; new member Pamela Adams abstained.
“I do think board members need an increase, but I’m uncomfortable voting on one for myself,” Dibble said. She introduced an alternate motion, which failed, that would have postponed the increase until 2017.
Devine said it has been 15 years since the board has received a raise.
“Now we are pretty much in line with Richland 2, Lexington-Richland 5, Horry and Greenville,” he said.
Dibble also opposed the board’s decision to establish an office of educator quality. The office will realign the district’s professional development to establish more in-house positions, including an executive director and assistant director.
“We already have consultants for each subject, and we have executive directors within the district and we have principals,” she said. “Between those three people they ought to be able to help the teachers.” Dibble noted that Jennifer Coleman, who heads the district’s Office of Accountability, Assessment, Research and Evaluation, also provides hands-on assistance.
Employees will receive step increases but no cost-of-living raise under the budget. However, the budget includes a one-time bonus for employees of up to $1,500 that will be distributed before the mid-winter break.
Ed Carlon, chief operations officer and director of budget services, presented the 2013-14 budget document to the seven-member board, which was adopted unanimously. The budget clears the way for the addition of twice-weekly foreign language study for first and second graders. The district already provides foreign language study from 3rd to 12th grade.
“I think we’ve stayed in better shape than a lot of districts,” Carlon said in an interview before the vote. “We didn’t furlough; we didn’t do mid-year cuts.” He said the 2008 economic recession prompted the district to eliminate about 400 positions over the past five years, a move that helped to balance the budget once federal economic stimulus money went away.
Richland County provided $193.9 million in funding, but Carlon said he and other budget officials remain dissatisfied with the state formula under Act 388, which has reduced per-pupil funding below the 2006 fiscal year benchmark. The county funding now will allow for full-time resource officers in elementary schools as well as middle and high schools. Previously, the officers worked in a part-time capacity at the elementary level.
Superintendent Percy Mack described the budget as a frugal document aimed at meeting the needs of a diverse population of more than 22,600 children. “We have urban, suburban and rural,” he noted. He said he feels more at ease as the effects of the recession have lessened.