Taxes to rise – but also decrease – in new Fort Mill schools budget that includes raise for teachers and staff

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FORT MILL – The Fort Mill school board approved a budget for the 2019-’20 school year that increases the tax levy on business and some personal property while simultaneously introducing an offset to ensure tax obligations remain flat.

While the $149.9 million operating budget that takes effect July 1 reflects a nearly 8 percent rise in spending, the growing district is opening its third high school – Catawba Ridge – when classes resume in August. The budget includes a raise for teachers and support staff. The budget recently passed by the S.C. Legislature included a 4 percent raise in teacher pay statewide.

Fort Mill’s school district is increasing pay by that amount, pushing the starting base salary for new teachers to $40,250. The district says it offers a 15 percent higher salary scale compared to the state teacher minimum – the highest in York County and among the highest in South Carolina, according to a news release from the district.

“In a time when teacher compensation has been a major topic of discussion, our district and board remain committed to offering competitive salaries to teachers in order to maintain our high standards of education for the long term,” Superintendent Dr. Chuck Epps,” said in the news release.

“We are proud to be a leader in the state in both education and teacher compensation.”

Primary residences are not taxed by school districts in South Carolina to fund the operating budget. Owner-occupied homes are taxed to pay debt service on bond issues used to pay for capital projects. To help pay for public schools, taxes are levied on rental and vacation homes, vehicles, including boats, and businesses. The district increased the general fund millage by 13 mils from 192.2 to 205.2, for a $78 annual average tax increase. However, it also decreased the debt service millage by 13 mils from 118 to 105.0, resulting in an overall tax neutral budget, the district says.

“We believe it is the mission of the school board to ensure our students receive a high quality education and our tax payers have remained supportive of the district as we have managed the growth in our area,” School Board Chair Kristy Spears said in the news release.

“It is also our goal to be responsible community partners and use options when available to support our community as they have supported us.”

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