Businesses will pay more to keep Lexington 1 schools among the best in South Carolina.
A property tax increase that is the largest for classrooms in the Columbia area won School Board approval Tuesday after no one spoke in opposition.
The raise of $119 on commercial equipment and facilities valued at $100,000 is included in a $229.9 million spending plan for the year starting July 1.
“We cannot afford to decrease the quality of our education when expectations are increasing,” Superintendent Karen Woodward said.
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Homes are exempt from tax increases for school operations, although the tax hike applies at a lower level to vehicles that residents own.
Like other educators, Lexington 1 officials say they have little choice but to increase taxes at a rate higher than it has been recently.
The jump stems mainly from what officials said is determination to keep student-teacher ratios from escalating and employee pay raises amid declining state aid and slower local property tax growth.
State aid is “significantly insufficient” to keep pace with Lexington 1’s steady enrollment growth, Woodward said.
Parents also want smaller class sizes to assure students receive more attention, board chairwoman Debra Knight of Lexington said.
The spending plan adds 15 teachers as school officials estimate 300 new students are coming when classes resume in August, the lowest increase in four years.
School officials also are using $7 million in savings to help run classrooms in the upcoming academic year. That kept the tax increase from being larger, officials said.
Lexington 1 educates 24,000 students – the second highest total in the Columbia area – in a 360-square-mile area across the center of Lexington County that includes fast-growing communities, small towns and farms.
Its schools are in Gilbert, Lexington, Pelion, Red Bank, Oak Grove and part of the south shore of Lake Murray.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483