Cherokee Co. school board trustees cut own salaries

GAFFNEY, S.C. (Spartanburg Herald Journal) – The Cherokee County School District board of trustees voted Monday night to approve a $71.1 million budget without a tax increase, but not without intense discussion.

The budget, which was passed without using a possible 4-mill tax increase, was balanced by using $548,602 from the district’s fund balance.

But, on a motion made by board member Ron Garner, trustees unanimously voted to cut their own pay to show a message of commitment to fiscal responsibility.

“We’ll show the people we’re serious about running a tighter ship,” Garner said. “Let’s see how serious we are now.”

Garner said the motion to cut trustee salaries from $5,000 per year to $4,000 per year will save the district an additional $11,000. That cost also factored in benefits and other related costs.

Board member Robin Harper argued against a tax increase by citing a 2014 vote, in which voters approved a penny sales tax that allowed the district to issue $60 million in bonds devoted to a building project.

“We just overwhelmingly got the constituents and the voters of this community to pass that penny sales tax,” Harper said. “At some point, we just can’t keep raising (the tax rate).”

The building plan, along with improvements and additions at several schools, will lead to a new B.D. Lee Elementary School and a career and technology center on the Cherokee County Campus of Spartanburg Community College.

Once approved, the 2016-17 fiscal year budget represented a $1.8 million increase from the current fiscal year budget. The current fiscal year ends June 30.

“(We are) just meeting the mandates of the state regarding a 2 percent increase in teacher salary from the state,” said Steve Bratton, the district’s chief financial officer.

Bratton said the budget is mostly made up of state-provided money, to the tune of roughly $43 million.

State-mandated salary increases for teachers and other employees were the biggest driver of the budget increase. Bus driver salaries in the district also increased by a total of $280,716.

Several teacher and teacher assistant positions were added in the budget, said Superintendent Quincie Moore.

“The budget process is always rather difficult working on slimmer revenues,” Bratton said.

Garner said this year’s budget process should serve as a warning that trustees need to prepare for new facilities, and the salaries associated with them, coming on the books.

“We don’t want to live hand-to-mouth,” he said.

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