GCS FY 20 General Fund Budget unveiled on Tuesday
Starting teacher pay set at $40,000; class size reduction and planning time also focuses of budget expenditures
The Greenville County Schools administration unveiled its FY 20 General Fund Budget recommendation in a Special Called Board Meeting earlier today. The recommended budget is balanced, as required by policy, and reflects revenue and expenditures totaling $668.4 million. The proposed budget is based on the Senate version of the State budget, which is not yet finalized.
Under current State law, taxes for school districts’ general fund are not levied on owner-occupied homes. In the recommended budget, a 6.0 mill increase to local property taxes, combined with the increased value of a local mill and additional State revenue proposed in the Senate version of the budget, will fund state mandates totaling $24.7 million, and a number of priorities found in Blueprint 2023, the district’s Education Plan. The majority of these expenditures work to address teacher and employee compensation, lower the ratio of students to school counselors, reduce class sizes, ensure daily planning time for teachers, and cover costs associated with projected student population growth.
The GCS Board has the authority this year to levy up to 15.8 mills to maintain its local share of the budget and to meet population growth and inflation. The amount available is determined by a State formula that allows unlevied mills to be carried over for three years, at which time they lapse if not used. Of the 15.8 mills, 10.1 are carryover mills that have not been utilized in the past three years by the Board of Trustees. The remaining 5.7 available mills are the result of calculations by the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office for FY 20 that use CPI (Consumer Price Index) and population growth to identify the number of mills needed to maintain current educational programming.
Under the provisions of the recommended budget, first-year teachers in Greenville County Schools will benefit from a 10.1% salary increase over last year’s starting pay, but will be expected to work four days beyond the 190 specified in teacher contracts. Teachers with one year of experience will also receive an annual salary of $40,000, but will be required to work only two days beyond their contract. These days will be used for on-boarding activities such as orientation and professional development. The average pay increase for all GCS teachers will be 6.5%.
Two budget initiatives focus on reducing class sizes at the elementary level. The addition of 12 first grade teachers will reduce the first grade teacher:student allocation ratio in GCS from 19:1 to 18:1. This marks the first step toward reducing the first grade ratio to 15:1, as called for in BluePrint 2023. First grade class size reduction was identified as a priority in order to help all first graders establish a firm foundation in literacy and numeracy. The proposed FY 20 budget also adds elementary teacher positions to reduce class size in 2nd-5th grade by decreasing the threshold at which additional teacher positions are provided to schools.
Another planned expenditure will reduce the ratio of students to school counselors in middle and high schools from 275:1 to 250:1. This is the second year in a two-year plan to decrease ratios from 300:1 to 250:1. Greater access to counselors was identified by teachers and students during the development of the Education Plan as a critical component in ensuring school safety and student development.
The proposed budget recommendation also calls for providing all elementary teachers with a daily planning period. This will be accomplished through the addition of non-certified positions to staff computer labs, STEAM labs, and other supplemental instructional areas so that every elementary school will have related arts instructional periods each day.
The Board will vote on the FY 20 General Fund Budget at the Second Reading on May 21st at 6:30 p.m. A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. that day for those who wish to comment on the proposed budget.