Courier Letters to the Editor

Saitta talks school taxes

Dear Editor,

When I read the letters of those advocating higher school taxes in Pickens County, I wondered if these individuals actually looked at the data. Responding point by point…

Academic performance is not falling in Pickens County, nor is it low. Pickens ranks seventh in the state out of 85 districts on the SAT. Our PASS ranking is 20th. The graduation rate has risen significantly from 71.2 percent in 2010 to 80.4 percent this past year.

It is also untrue starting teachers in Pickens make $3,000 less a year than teachers in surrounding districts. A first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Pickens earns $893 less than Anderson 1, $1,040 less than Anderson 4, $1,381 less than Greenville and $1,651 less than Oconee.

Our district built 7 new schools, renovated another 20, and it is spending $26 million more a year on buildings. When you spend so much on buildings, the rest of the budget will be squeezed. Moving a step at a time, I believe the board will work to narrow the pay gap this budget session.

Our classrooms are not overcrowded either. According to the state report cards, our 23-to-1 student-teacher ratio in core subjects is below Greenville and Anderson 1, and higher than Oconee and Anderson 4, so we are in the middle.

It’s also untrue school property taxes have not been raised in 11 years. In 2007 taxes were raised 39 mills, 2 mills in 2011, and next year taxes will likely rise again due to the rising bond payment schedule baked into the cake when the building plan was passed.

A lack of funding? According to the 2006 financial audit, the school district spent $122.1 million in 2005-06 school year. This past school year the district spent $171.8 million. Most of that massive growth in spending has been on buildings, but spending on day to day operations has gone up as well.

However, whether it is being spent on school buildings or being spent on what is going on inside the buildings day to day, taxpayers have increased overall funding to our schools substantially the last few years. It isn’t the taxpayers fault the board/ district administration chose to spend so much on buildings at the neglect of some other needs. The board/ administration needs to implement alternatives that address the other needs without raising taxes and tapping the taxpayers yet again.

Alex Saitta

School Board Trustee