Horry County Schools budget update includes teacher raises, tax cut

On January 31, Horry County Schools Finance Director Jeff Riddle braced school board members for a $19.2 million shortfall. Just three and a half months later, he's pitching pay raises. He's also recommending a 2 mill tax cut in property taxes.

When asked if that was something he expected to happen. "No, not at all," he answered.

Monday night, board members held a special called meeting to look over Riddle's list of money coming in. That originally projected shortfall is now a surplus of $25 million in undesignated reserve funds. Where did this change in money come from?

"I wouldn't say its all this money. One we have made cuts in our expenditures, just not the big problematic cuts" Riddle said.

Those cuts include eliminating a million dollars in district office spending, $290,000 in substitute teachers, and recalculating what Riddle calls an athletic supplement that was overstated in the 2010-2011 budget.

"Second, the Senate Finance Committee budget provided about $8 million more in Education Finance Act funding than the house budget," he added.

Riddle said that there are an additional 706 new students in the district for the 2011 school year. The state pays $1,788 per student, bringing in nearly $10 million more than the 2010 school year.

"Also in various other budget funding, we received about $3 million more," Riddle added.

Riddle recommended the board consider pay increases for 88 percent of teachers, something they haven't done in two years. Teacher raises are based on the district's STEP program, which is based on experience. Riddle says substitute teachers, temporary employees, and those on the highest paid end of the STEP scale make up for the 12 percent not eligible for pay raises.

The Board of Education still has several weeks of meetings and public hearings, the next being a May 23rd board meeting, before they pass a final budget. They have until midnight June 30th to do so.