Horry County lags behind other large South Carolina counties in teacher pay, according to the results of a salary study released Monday.
The Horry County Board of Education reviewed the study during a virtual meeting Monday night. The study compared salaries at the following organizations: Greenville and Charleston county school districts, as well as schools in Berkeley, Richland, Lexington, Dorchester, Aiken, Beaufort, Georgetown and York counties.
The study also looked at employee compensation at other organizations such as Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University, the City of Myrtle Beach, the City of North Myrtle Beach, the City of Conway, and Charleston, Horry, and Georgetown county governments.
Campbell said Horry County Schools' non-instructional positions are below the market by 11.7 % at the minimum starting salaries, by 6.2% in the midpoint salaries, and by 3.5% at the maximum end of the salary spectrum.
For teachers, salaries are 1.5% behind on bachelor’s degree salaries, 1.8% behind on the bachelor’s plus 18 salary step, but on point with master’s degree salaries. For the master’s degree plus 30 salary step, the district is 4.9% behind the average, and 4.5% the market in doctorate level salaries.
The gap was most significant between Horry and Greenville and Charleston counties.
“When we consider Horry County is the third largest district in the state, when it comes to competing for teachers, it’s hard to compete with Greenville and Charleston counties,” Campbell said.
For bachelor’s and bachelor’s plus 18 salary steps, both lag 3.4% behind those two markets, while master’s degree salaries are 1.5% behind. Both master’s plus 30 and doctorate salary steps are 7.5% behind those two counties.
Increasing non-instructional and teacher salaries to the statewide market levels would cost $9.9 million, while implementing the changes that would bring HCS up to par with Greenville and Charleston counties would cost $14.1 million.
Campbell gave a few strategies to make this happen, but realized with the current climate, some of his suggestions might not be possible.
He suggested the following: full implementation of increases by July 1 of this year, a 2% adjustment this July and the remaining adjustments next July, splitting the total cost between fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021, or implementing the study in its entirety in July 2021.
Campbell recommended the third option, splitting the cost between the fiscal years to help “make it more affordable.”
He also said they had to decide whether to implement teacher salaries against the full market comparison, or only by the largest competitors, but he recommended the full market.
“Each [district] is a unique community or geographic region and has certain appeal to applicants looking for employment … all things equal with pay, they may prefer that type of community in which to reside,” Campbell said. “We feel [our suggestion] would enhance the district’s ability to recruit and retain [teachers]. It’s more sustainable long-term.”
Vice chairman John Poston was glad to have the information.
“It’s been a long time getting to this point having some data to give us a self-check on how we’re doing," he said. "It’s great information at a very, very tough time … how are we going to pay for it?”
Poston said he’d like to figure out how to fund the changes in a sustainable manner.
Campbell did say there were a few positions where HCS did well in providing competitive pay, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, speech therapists and interventionists.
In other board news:
• The board authorized the use of Educational Capital Improvements Sales and Use Tax revenues, not to exceed $32.6 million for direct payment for already-approved projects, including classroom and instructional technology, as well as their short-term facilities plan.
• The board unanimously voted in favor of waiving the remaining two days left for employees to make up after Hurricane Dorian.
• The technology committee is moving towards making sure all students in grades K-12 have their own devices for any future eLearning needs, since right now third and fourth-graders share devices. The cost to purchase devices for K-2, move old devices to the child development students, and purchase enough devices to cover the rest of the third and fourth-graders would total $5.4 million. The topic will be on the agenda at the next meeting.
• The board will hold a virtual public hearing on June 8 at 6 p.m. on the 2020-2021 comprehensive budget. Starting Tuesday, a link will be available at www.horrycountyschools.net where those who would like to leave comments may do so. Those comments can be included in the meeting.