Board votes to raise pay by 19 percent, ending freeze
The Georgetown County School Board is moving forward with a plan to increase their pay, which has been frozen since 2003.
“It’s something serious we need to look at,” Board Member Robert Cox, who holds an at-large seat. “This is not something this board created, we’re just trying to solve a problem that originated in 2003.”
District policy sets board member pay at 25 percent of a starting teacher’s salary. That would be $10,650 for this school year. The chairman gets an extra 40 percent.
Facing a budget shortfall of $510,723 in early 2003, the board voted to freeze its pay. It has remained at $6,719 a year since then.
In a 35-minute discussion at its meeting this week, the board discussed several options for the amount of an increase; whether an increase should be a set amount or the percentage of a starting teacher’s salary; and if an increase should take place immediately, in the fiscal year starting July 1 or after the next election cycle in 2024.
Cox made a motion to immediately increase the stipend by 20 percent to $8,520.
Board Members Kathy Anderson, who holds an at-large seat, and Lynne B. Ford, who represents District 6, were concerned about an increase taking effect in the next few months.
Board Chairman Bill Gaskins, who represents District 5, cited the starting salary of a full-time custodian in the district, which can be as low as $17,550. He disagreed with the 20 percent increase,
“I can’t support that,” he said.
“We could find 100 different rationales for not doing this,” said Board Member Scott DuBose, who represents District 2. “The board will never get an increase if we keep bringing things like that up. I don’t think we’re sitting here asking for a raise.”
Cox’s motion was defeated 6-3. Board Member Randy Walker from District 4, joined Cox and DuBose in the minority.
DuBose made a motion that pay be increased to $8,000 for board members and $9,700 for the board chairman within the next few months.
“We’re trying to solve a problem,” DuBose said. “We better at least figure out putting a stake in the ground of what we’re going to measure it with if nothing else, or we’ll be dealing with this forever.”
“It’s time to unfreeze it. It should have never been frozen for 20 years anyway,” Cox said. “If we’re going to phase it in then we’re going to right back to where we were.”
DuBose’s motion was approved 7-2. Anderson and Board Member Keith Moore were opposed.
“I don’t have a problem with the amount we have now,” Anderson said.
After seeing how small the increase would be, Ford made a motion for it to go into effect on July 1. It was approved 9-0.
The board will have to vote two more times before the policy is officially changed.
“It’s not going to influence how much we work to give our employees every penny we can,” said Board Member Patti Hammel, who represents District 1. “That’s my goal as a board member, to be sure that we’re taking care of our people. That doesn’t mean just children. That means our staff. That means our employees. That means everybody.”
The board delayed a decision on whether to enact term limits for thechairman.
Board policy only requires that an election for chairman take place every two years. It does not have any term limits. Jim Dumm, who resigned from the board at the end of 2022, had been chairman for 12 years.
Gaskins, who as elected chairman in December, believes a chairman should only serve two terms. Ford, who was elected vice chairman in December, agreed.
“It’s always good to have a turnover, in terms of fresh ideas every so often,” she said. “I don’t think any board should have a policy that says that someone could stay in office until they vacate that office. I don’t think that serves the board – or anyone – very well.”
Lindsay Anne Thompson, the district’s attorney, said term limits would also need to be adopted by the legislature, because the board’s current form of government was established by state law.
The county’s legislative delegation would need to introduce the measure, which would face a veto from Gov. Henry McMaster.
“He is very much opposed to the concept of local legislation,” Thompson said.
Thompson suggested updating the policy to read that the chairman is “encouraged” to not seek a third consecutive term.
The board could not decide whether to try to change the wording before going to the legislative delegation, or go to the delegation first for input on the changes.