Despite continued underfunding by state government, Richland County teachers will get a state-mandated raise, and class sizes are expected to remain steady in both Richland 1 and Richland 2 school districts.
Richland 1, with more than 24,500 students, has set a general operating budget of about $296 million for 2016-17, an increase of about $11 million over the previous year. Property taxes from Richland County businesses and vehicles located within the district will fund about $204 million of the budget.
Richland 2, the Midlands’ largest district with more than 27,000 students, plans to spend $261 million in the coming year, about $14 million more than the previous year. The county will pick up $142 million of the district’s tab.
It’s not certain yet how much, if at all, property taxes will rise in either district to fund the schools as property valuations will not be completed by the county until October. But the chief financial officers for both districts say they believe taxes could stay level, if not actually be reduced.
Richland County Council has committed to funding both districts at the amounts they have requested even if they require a tax increase.
Businesses bear the brunt of property tax increases for school operations. Homeowners don’t pay those property tax increases, although they are applied to vehicles.
Teachers in both districts will see about a 4 percent pay raise mandated by the state.
Richland 2 plans to add 13 new classroom teachers, seven new special education teachers and seven new teaching assistants for special education classrooms to keep pace with the district’s rapidly growing student population. About 360 new students are expected enter the district in the coming year, said Harry Miley, Richland 2’s chief financial officer.
Richland 1 will add nine new full-time positions as it begins its new Language Immersion Program for pre-K and kindergarten students. Other new full-time positions are being added, while others are being cut, for a net decrease of 43 full-time positions.
Reach Ellis (803) 771-8307.