The school district wants a $2 million increase in it’s budget.
Teacher pay is a focus for the board, which is preparing to go in front of Sumter County Council on Tuesday. To get ready, board members are discussing the proposed budget, which was presented during a first reading late last month.
The plan would request a 12.75 millage increase. Millage is a formula that is used to calculate property taxes.
The money raised would be used for general operations and debt service.
This proposal would increase the district’s budget by nearly $2.6 million.
"I would hope it would go to good teachers," Sumter resident Ben McIver shares. "I think that’s where we can most make an impact on young people is just good personnel with the energy to teach and to love what they do and it’s easier to love what you do if you’re well compensated for it."
McIver has lived in Sumter for over 20 years, working as a teacher himself for Wilson Hall, a private elementary school.
McIver believes increasing teacher pay should be a priority.
"Public schools are a resource for so many people who can’t attend private school or who don’t want to. Some people just want to invest their time and their energy and the resources in the public schools and I understand that and I think we all benefit from that," McIver says. "I think that benefits the community and the country, so I’m a big believer in public education — both higher and lower education — so I would support that."
According to the district, this millage increase would raise yearly salaries by $2,500. It’s also planning to request an $18 minimum pay rate for bus drivers and an increase in bus driver training.
Like districts across the state, Sumter’s had trouble recruiting teachers and drivers.
"I feel like it’s needed to improve the education of the children," Sumter resident Sue McDuffie shares. "No one wants extra taxes, but I think it’s something we need to do. It’s something we’ve needed to build up for quite some time and we need to have the back of all of our residents, old and young."
McDuffie tells me an increased budget for the district might help Sumter as a whole.
"We have new businesses in town and more coming and we need to have the people here to do the work there as well so we need the training and the education," McDuffie explains.
The district’s proposal also has funding directed towards general school operations, including increasing: rising gas and electricity costs, repairs and maintenance, printing new manuals and increasing security.
This proposal is not final, but will be discussed in tonight’s meeting starting at 6 p.m. at the district office on Wilson Hall Road. The public is welcome to attend and provide comment before the proposal will be presented to Sumter County Council tomorrow evening at 6 p.m.
Monday's board meeting will also be streamed live on YouTube.