Supporters of Dorchester School District Two crowded into County Chambers in Summerville to listen to the district present its budget to the Dorchester County Budget and Finance Committee on May 19.
Leading up to the event, DD2 has held multiple budget workshops and public input meetings, prepared and presented by Director of Business Services Allyson Duke.
The proposed DD2 budget is $165,737,514 — a $3.2 million increase from last fiscal year’s budget. Duke said the increase comes from state mandated increases in teachers’ salaries, health benefits and retirement — and DD2 is growing in both students and teachers.
The district anticipates a growth of 600 students and is using a base student cost of $2,120.
Millage increases allowed by state law could reel in more money for the district, but according to Duke, there has been no millage increase for operations since fiscal year 2010-2011. A millage increase would not apply to homeowners.
Duke showed County Council members the list of additional funds the district would like to invest in, should more funds become available. Items include more security officers, a rate increase for non-certified subs and special needs shadows to $70 per day, 10 additional teachers, a one-percent Step increase for all other employees to include classified and administration, and an additional one-percent increase in teacher salaries.
Superintendent Joe Pye spoke to council members about DD2’s needs. He said the main challenge is the district’s constant need to add teachers.
“Our problem is we’ve not kept up for years,” he said. “We add teachers each year. The teachers we are asking for are really for last year’s (student) growth. So really, the whole thing is about teachers.”
Pye said DD2’s teachers “work hard and they’re all underpaid,” adding that teachers used to get raises by two to four percent – one year the district even gave five percent.
“Teachers haven’t gotten raises in at least the last four or five years that we used to try to give them,” he said.
Because of the ever-growing district, classroom sizes are still large in DD2. After DD2 spoke to council members, council Chairman Bill Hearn lamented with DD2’s wish list, saying he would like to see local legislation give more support to DD2’s budget requests.
“First time I said that was in 1995 and I’m going to keep saying it, just for what it’s worth,” he said.
Immediately after he said that councilman Jay Byars made a motion to have the chairman write a letter to delegations to that effect. Council members voted unanimously to do so, and the decision was greeted by applause from audience members.
After the meeting Pye told The Journal Scene that he felt the meeting went well.
“It was great,” he said. “We always have a nice turnout.”