FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Fairfield County School District Board of Trustees gave its budget third and final reading.
The budget, which will be presented to Fairfield County Council, totals $37,401,195 and includes an operational millage of 203.1.
“”We’re increasing spending, but we’re not increasing taxes, correct?” asked Board of Trustees Secretary William Frick.
Kevin Robinson, director of finance for Fairfield County School District, responded affirmatively.
“One more time, for the record, can we explain how this is occurring, because I don’t want to hear this question anymore,” Frick said.
Robinson explained the spending was able to increase, because the tax base increased.
“The increase is due to an increase in the tax base, which means the tax rate, the tax millage of 203.1 can remain the same, because the tax base is larger than it was the previous year,” Robinson said.
Fairfield County School district Superintendent J.R. Green elaborated.
“That is primarily due to commercial property, and I think I would be safe to say, primarily the nuclear facility increasing its value,” Green said.
Green said Fairfield County School District is fortunate to find itself in circumstances that do not require a millage increase.
“We are so fortunate that we are in a position that we do not have to entertain a millage increase,” Green said. “Most of the counties around us are having to raise millage just to keep up with their increase costs.”
Third and final reading of the budget passed 4-2.
Trustee Paula Hartman and Trustee Annie McDaniel voted against third and final reading.
Trustees also voted to fully adopt a salary structure recommended by MTG in 2011.
“There was a study done in 2011, and we ended up adopting part of what was recommended from that study,” Green said. “Parts of it, we didn’t adopt.”
Green said this resulted in inconsistencies between the recommended salary structure and the District’s current salary structure.
“There were some issues in terms of increments between steps, whereas, they recommended a 1.5 or 3 percent increase, we were doing kind of a hodge podge increments 1.5 in some respects, .6, .8, 1.2, it was kind of all over the map,” Green said. “We wanted to bring some consistency to that.”
Green said the new structure would increase salaries for teachers in years 0, 1 and 2. It also gives employees exempt from the structure a $2,000 stipend for earning doctorates and a $1,000 stipend for earning specialized degrees.
“The cost of implementing this before benefits is somewhere around $375,000,” Green said. “Once we add in benefits, it’s going to be somewhere around $500,000 to implement all of those recommendations.
Frick asked how implementing the 2011 study’s recommendations would impact the district’s ability to compete for teaching talent.
Green said adopting the recommendations would make the district more competitive.
Trustee Henry Miller voiced his opinion that competitive salaries are important toward attracting quality teachers to Winnsboro and Fairfield Count. Miller further added he hopes the community will be able to offer other incentives to educators, such as community housing.
“We’ve got to be competitive,” Miller said.
Hartman and McDaniel were critical of the recommendation. Hartman said she felt the recommendation, which had been discussed during the May 19 meeting, had not been given to the Board with ample time for consideration.
“I think the Board, as a full board, needs to sit down and study this more,” Hartman said.
McDaniel said she felt it was inappropriate to adopt something financially impactful, which had not been part of the budget planning process.
Frick asked from where would the District draw the funds to implement the recommendation. Green said the money would come from the District’s fund balance.
Ultimately, the Board voted to adopt the recommendation, 4-2. It will be implemented in the fiscal year beginning July 1.