Clover schools propose tax increase, adding 20 jobs

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comMay 28, 2014 

— The Clover school district is proposing a $71.8 million operating budget for 2014-15 that adds 20 new positions, including 16 teachers.

Ken Love, assistant superintendent for business services, said the district is proposing an increase in the operating tax rate, which falls only on businesses and on the owners of second homes.

However, he said the school district is not proposing a property tax increase for debt repayment this year. Taxes for debt repayment are paid by both homeowners and businesses.

Love, who laid out the budget proposal to school board members last week, said the district will have to increase property taxes for debt repayment by the 2015-16 budget year, after it borrows money in a $67 million school bond approved by voters in March.

“We haven’t borrowed any money yet, and we won’t until late summer or early fall, depending on how the market looks,” Love said. “But by next year, we will have to levy that tax.”

Under South Carolina’s Act 388, which took effect in 2007, owner-occupied homes are exempt from property taxes that pay for school operations, although they continue to pay taxes for debt service.

Love said the Clover school board is expected to vote on the budget proposal during its June 23 meeting, which will include a 5 p.m. public hearing on the budget.

Under the proposed operating tax increase, Love said, businesses assessed at a rate of 6 percent, which includes most retail businesses and the owners of second homes, would pay $36 more for each $100,000 in assessed property value.

Manufacturing businesses, which are assessed at 10.5 percent, would pay $63 more for each $100,000 in assessed property value, under the proposal, he said.

Love said the district expects to spend about $2 million more in the budget year beginning July 1 than it will bring in.

However, Love said the extra $2 million is money that was already budgeted for the current year and is being re-purposed for the coming year.

“We don’t expect to spend everything from this year, so we’re taking that and putting it into some positions,” Love said. “We’re going to spend some of those dollars for our students.”

He also said the school district is no longer funneling money into its capital improvement fund, as it has for the past several years to save a down payment for the planned school construction.

Love said the district has been saving $5 million to $7 million each year for the past several years toward capital improvements. That’s how it saved a $32 million down payment for the $99 million school construction package approved by voters.

Highlights of the proposed 2014-15 operating budget are:

• Sixteen added teaching positions, at $1.2 million. The teaching jobs, which average $75,000 each including benefits, include six at Clover Middle, two at Oakridge Middle, six at the elementary school level for growth, and three in special education.

• Two new technical staff positions due to data processing and other technical needs, at $150,000, or $75,000 each, including benefits.

• Two teaching assistant positions for chorus and band to keep those programs “competitive in nature,” Love said, for $50,000, or $25,000 each, including benefits.

• $1.4 million for the second year of a three-year lease contract with Apple for its Connected Classroom project, which aims to place an iPad or MacBook Air in the hands of every student in the fall.

• A step increase for eligible teachers, which averages 2 percent, and retirement and insurance benefit increases required by the state, which total $1.3 million more.

• An increase of $300,000 for utilities.

• A $250,000 increase in the budget for substitute teachers, to $1.25 million. Love said a larger staff means a greater need for substitutes. The school district uses Kelly Services to hire its substitutes.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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