York schools to add 3 jobs, increase taxes

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comJune 12, 2014 

— The York school district will hire two new teachers and a district-level administrator and hike property taxes on businesses under a $38.6 million budget approved June 10 by the school board.

The new positions include a special education teacher, a science teacher at York Comprehensive High School and a district-level director of pupil services, said finance director Amy Hagner.

Superintendent Vernon Prosser said the rest of the local budget maintains the status quo, although state funding allocations will allow the district to expand its half-day 4K program to a full day and add reading interventionists in all five elementary schools.

Prosser said the property tax increase approved by the school board is the largest the district is allowed under the state’s formula. He said the increase will generate about $200,000 in added revenue.

“What we really need to work on in Western York County is some type of growth on the tax base,” Prosser said. “It’s just not a growing tax base. That’s what’s kind of slowing us down on the budget.”

Under the tax increase for school operations, businesses assessed at a rate of 6 percent, which includes most retail businesses and the owners of second homes, would pay $24 more in taxes each year for each $100,000 in assessed value.

Manufacturing businesses, which are assessed at 10.5 percent, would pay $42 more for each $100,000 in assessed property value, under the change. The budget year begins July 1.

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

Prosser said the district expects to spend around $190,000, including benefits, for the three new positions.

He said growing enrollment at the high school dictates the need to add a science teacher “because science is a required course that students have to have.”

He also said the added special education teacher is needed to meet federal requirements for case loads for students with disabilities.

The district-level administrative position will handle student services, including disciplinary issues, oversee the district’s alternative school, York One Academy, and enrollment services, he said. That person will also help with staff development, he said.

“We had a need for someone to handle that,” he said. “Personnel and pupil services are two of our biggest operations.”

Parents concerned about priorities

Stacy Rampey, leader of the York Parents’ Coalition, talked about the need for more teachers during a public hearing on the budget.

“My biggest concern about the budget is that they’re able to add a position at the district office when they are continuing to cut programs in schools,” she said.

Rampey said she was concerned about growing class sizes in the elementary schools, where she said the classes “are approaching 30 students.”

Prosser said the district keeps an eye on class sizes and can move teachers if necessary to address growth. “At this point, we’re in pretty good shape, but we’ll continue to monitor that.”

Rampey said some parents are concerned about the lack of a German program at the high school. Prosser said the district lost a German teacher and is trying to find a new one.

“I feel strongly we need a German program, but we need a quality German program,” he said. Prosser said the district will hire a German teacher for the fall semester if it is able to find a qualified teacher.

If not, he said, it may consider alternatives, such as computer assisted learning software or adding another Spanish class in lieu of German. He said the high school will work with colleges to help students navigate the college admissions requirement of three years of a foreign language.

Prosser said the full-day 4K program that York will add in the fall was funded by the state due to York’s high percentage of low-income students.

He said he expects the district will have eight 4K programs of 20 students each, including two programs at Jefferson, Harold C. Johnson and Cotton Belt elementary schools and one each at Hunter Street and Hickory Grove-Sharon elementary schools.

The reading interventionist program, which also was funded by the state, will add a specialist to work with students who are struggling with reading at each elementary school.

“They’ll be able to help the classroom teacher work with groups of students,” he said. “It’s a big help to the elementary schools that really need that.”

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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