The Horry County Board of Education added $2.3 million to their budget Monday to increase substitute teacher pay and outsource the daily filling of substitute positions.
The district’s human resources committee met Monday to discuss the options, and a main concern was that ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds are running out in September 2024. These funds pay teachers extra wages when they cover another’s teacher’s class during their planning period.
The vote to include this $2.3 million in the budget was approved 7-3, with the nay votes coming from District 11's Shanda Allen, District 1's David Koch, and District 2's Debbie Edmonds.
HCS Chief of Human Resources Mary Anderson said the current fill rate for substitutes hovers around the 70% mark. Using an outside company to handle filling those needs could bring that rate up to 90% or better, district officials said.
Regardless of which option is chosen, district officials said they need to increase their daily rate of pay for substitutes. This $2.3 million includes moving substitute rates for certified teachers from $110 per day to $175 per day. Teachers with a bachelor's degree would go from $100 a day to $165 per day. Those with an associate degree would receive $150 per day and those with a high school diploma would receive $130 per day.
Outsourcing would include some cost markups, such as 30% for teachers, aides and support staff, and possibly up to 50% for nursing substitutes.
Anderson said there would be some savings for the district, since the substitutes would technically be employees of the outsourcing company there would be no cost for retirement or Social Security. There would also be no costs for vetting substitutes with background checks or associated software costs for those needs since they would become the responsibility of the outside company.
Once the district contracts with a company to handle the subs, the district would no longer have a pool of substitute teachers beyond their already-set long-term subs.
“The staffing agency would come in and have info meetings with current subs. They would have to apply to work for the staffing company, then become an employee of the staffing company,” Anderson said, noting the company would also have options for retirement options.
District 11 member Shanda Allen expressed concern that those employees who have many years in the system would lose their years of service towards their retirement if they have to leave and be employed by a different entity.
Anderson said those people would retain their years earned, but they just would not gain more once employed with the outside company.
“I hope we wouldn’t snatch something away from employees that have been loyal for a long time,” vice chairman Neil James said.
The agreement with the outsourcing company would be a five-year contract to be renewed after each one-year period.
District 5 member Howard Barnard asked Anderson if she would feel better if someone else was handling the filling of the substitute positions.
“Would I sleep better if we outsourced? Yes sir, I would,” Anderson said.
Next year’s budget
The board also gave preliminary approval for the 2023-2024 budget, which before tonight’s amendments totaled $1.04 billion. Some major items included in the budget are:
- $2.8 million to add support staff members to schools so that the district complies with a new state law that requires teachers be given 30 minutes of unencumbered time during their lunch period.
- STEP (longevity) increases or a 2% raise for all regular school district employees ($6.9 million)
- $2,500 increase for teacher and nurse salaries ($11.3 million)
- Hourly rate increase of $1.48 per hour for support staff employees (minimum of $15 per hour) ($5.1 million)
- A bus driver salary increase ($699,215)
- Paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or for a placement of a foster child ($1.4 million)
The board agreed to table the proposed Phase II athletic plans, which were to include new assistant sports coaches and other athletic staff at the middle school level, as well as a designated middle school athletics director.
The finance committee was also worried that the waning ESSER funds will be an issue, and there was question if the district could afford to move forward with that phase if ESSER funds are not available.
“A lot of other ESSER-funded positions are no longer available after this year. I will not vote for a millage increase – we’re going to have to live within our means,” James said during last week’s facilities and finance committee meeting. “Let’s pause a year … see where we’re going to be with positions we need to continue.”
The board also decided to table any increases planned for the fine arts supplements until the 2024-2025 school year, with board members David Koch (District 1), Janet Graham (District 7) and James Edwards (District 9) voting against waiting until next year to give those increases.
The board will revisit the budget at their June meeting with a public hearing before final approval.
In other board news
- Angie Crosby of St. James Middle School was named the 2024 Support Staff Member of the Year.
- Krista Finklea will be the new principal of St. James Elementary School beginning July 1.
The board also approved a request by the Myrtle Beach Police Department to install 19 Acoustic Threat Detection devices in and around the properties of Myrtle Beach area schools.
The MBPD received grant funding for the program which will enhance the active shooter mitigation efforts, improve school safety, and quicken response measures for spaces for students, teachers, and everyone in the Myrtle Beach cluster.
The Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras throughout those locations will locate and track detected gunshot threats with proven accuracy and timeliness through sensors actively listening for gunshots.
The program has been reviewed by the legal department and all necessary permits will be obtained prior to installation.
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