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School district eyes revenue, spending increases

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Draft budget calls for $200K jump in property tax revenue

By Ben Carlson

A proposed budget for the school district calls for spending an additional $387,000 and revenue increases totaling just over $318,000.

The bulk of the revenue increase comes from just over $200,000 in increases to local property taxes, coupled with a projected increase in state funds.

The spending includes just under $460,000 in additional salaries, a 2 percent increase mandated last year by the state legislature. A variety of spending cuts, including reductions in instruction, board activities and the superintendent’s office, helps offset some of pay increase and brings the total spending increase down to $387,000.

The Anderson County Board of Education has yet to vote on the proposed budget, which remains in committee.

Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and finance officer Nick Clark discussed the proposed budget last week, including the school board’s budget committee’s discussion on possible cuts in athletics and a plan to save money by not allowing staff to take personal days before extended breaks, which drives up substitute teacher expenses.

Clark said the plan is to budget for a 4 percent increase in property tax revenue, which is the maximum allowed by statute without subjecting the budget to a voter recall.

If ultimately approved by the school board in September, that increase would generate about $200,000 in revenue. Clark added that he expects an increase in SEEK funds from the state to the tune of about $75,000 in the coming year.

Athletics

Clark said the district currently provides a total of $75,000 to the middle and high schools for athletics, and pays approximately $200,000 each year in coaching salaries.

While no specifics in athletic cuts have been proposed, the district is looking at ways to save money that dovetail with last year’s decision to pay new coaches a stipend instead of having their salary added onto what they’re paid to teach.

Mitchell said the district is not considering making students pay to play on teams, but acknowledged that the idea has been discussed.

“We don’t want anyone not to be able to play a sport because of their inability to pay,” Mitchell said. “It did come up last year, and we’re looking at other districts to see what those costs would be.

“I would not rule that out for the future, but for now, we’re really not looking at that.”

Personal days

Clark said the district is considering cutting personal days for teachers from three to one and offsetting the move by adding those days to the number they receive for sick days.

He said that would save the district about $60,000 a year in substitute teacher costs and allow teachers to roll over their sick days, which help them upon retirement.

Mitchell said when she taught, the district provided 10 sick days, one personal day and three emergency days. That changed, she said, five or six years ago when board increased the number of personal days from one to three and allowed teachers to use those days for any purpose.

If the change is adopted, they would no longer be able to use them the day before an extended break.

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