School district looks at teacher pay increases

By Ben Robinson
Staff Reporter

COUNTY— The board of trustees of the School District of Pickens County has been looking into funding increases in teacher pay to try to keep up with surrounding counties.

“Our turnover rate of 7.6 percent is lower than the average of 8.8 percent for Anderson, Greenville and Oconee,” board member Alex Saitta said at last week’s meeting. “Oconee has the lowest turnover rate of 6.8 percent and Anderson District 4 has the highest at 14.2 percent.”

Board members have also looked at medical insurance costs for employees.

“The cost of a family plan rose by $2,784 during the last four years,” Saitta said. “The school district passed only $144 of that on to employees and paid the other $2,640. That’s equal to three annual teacher step increases that instead went to funding the teachers’ rising medical costs.”

Looking at the district’s pay scale, trustees found that teacher pay is $1,995 behind surrounding counties. And the scale is not uniform.

“About three-fourths of the scale is paid 10.4 percent above the state minimum pay scale, but more than one-fourth of the cells in the scale are only five percent or six percent above the state pay scale,” Saitta said. “Our scale is not uniform, but the pay scales of surrounding counties are uniform, so that is causing bigger gaps in pay in some places.”

Saitta said the district is trying to take steps to decrease the pay difference with local counties.

“The committee is recommending we pay teachers their mandated step increase for 2015-16,” Saitta said. “That will cost $850,000. Then we recommend giving all other employees a 2-percent increase for 2015-16, and that will cost $350,000 more, or $1.2 million in total.”

“Surrounding districts will do the same, so to narrow the teacher pay gap we’ll have to add more to the teacher pay scale. Doing an extra teacher step increase will cost $850,000. Fixing the inconsistencies in the pay scale will cost $325,000.

Saitta said he and fellow board member Dr. Henry Wilson preferred fixing the pay scale first and making it uniform, while board member Judy Edwards prefers the step increase first.

“The committee is presenting the board with both options to be included in the budget process, realizing we are in a wait-and-see mode and unsure how much state revenue our district will be given,” Saitta said.

“Also, the state legislature and State Department of Education are talking about modifying the teacher pay scale, and we want to see how that pans out.”