Orangeburg County School District employees could see pay increases during the next budget year, including the $2,500 increase in teacher salaries that state lawmakers are considering.

The teacher salary increase, which is in the proposed S.C. House budget, would bring the minimum starting salary for teachers in the district to $42,500, up from $40,000 annually.

The goal is to increase the salary to $50,000 by the year 2026.

The school district is also proposing:

• An experience-based STEP salary increase for all employees.

• A review of the salary schedules for food service employees, custodians, aides, school secretaries and bus monitors.

• Funding for an athletic trainer in each high school.

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• A minimum $1,000 retention bonus for all employees.

District Assistant Superintendent of Finance Gail Sanders reviewed the proposals with school board trustees during a budget workshop session last week.

It is the first time trustees have received a look at the district’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Sanders said a $1,000 retention bonus would be provided to district employees if state lawmakers approve $2,500 bonuses for teachers and bus drivers.

While discussions have been held on the state level about providing the $2,500 bonuses, it was not included in the House’s budget proposal. The state Senate is developing its own version of the budget.

Sanders noted the OCSD budget is subject to change and that school district trustees will revisit and possibly amend the budget before it is finalized.

The district plans to give its budget first reading April 18, second reading May 9 and third and final reading on June 13. The public will have a chance to comment prior to the final reading.

Trustees Mary Ulmer and Sylvia Bruce-Stephens both agreed that they wanted to further digest and review the budget prior to first reading.

In addition to the teacher salary increase mandate, the House version of the budget also mandates and funds:

• A 1 percent increase in employer retirement contribution.

• A 3.7 percent increase in employer health insurance contribution.

• An increase in teacher supply funding from $300 to $350.

• A bus driver pay increase. Currently, bus drivers in OCSD get paid $16.66 an hour. Under the House version of the budget, it would be required to pay bus drivers an additional $1.82.

Sanders said the district is in line to receive a total of $65.8 million from the state, according to the current House budget. That’s up from $59.6 million this year.

While the state funding would take care of the teacher salary increases, it does not cover school bus driver increases at this time.

Ulmer expressed appreciation for the district’s proposed funding for an athletic trainer at each high school.

Trustee Dr. William O’Quinn asked if coaching supplements would be considered.

OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said the matter will be discussed as the district moves through the budget process.

Related to the budget, Sanders said the district’s current millage is about 219 mills, which brought in about $44 million in property taxes to the school district.

She said the district currently has a little over two months, or about $22.2 million, in its fund balance. The fund balance is deemed a healthy number, according to the State Fiscal Accountability Act and the Government Finance Officers Association.

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