Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Budget features $40,000 starting teacher pay, smaller elementary class sizes, and daily planning for teachers

The Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees approved the administration’s recommended FY 20 General Fund Budget in a unanimous vote at a Special Called Board Meeting Tuesday evening.  The recommended budget reflects revenue and expenditures totaling $668.4 million and makes Greenville County Schools one of the first, if not the first district in South Carolina to raise starting teacher salaries to $40,000.

During the public hearing prior to the budget’s second reading, three individuals, Matthew Boone, Sherry East, and Shelley Smith signed up to speak.  All voiced their support for the proposed budget.  Boone, the reigning teacher of the Year from Northwood Middle School, focused on the importance of raising the starting salary for teachers to $40,000 in order to attract top candidates into the field of education.  East, the South Carolina Education Association President, shared teacher retention statistics from CERRA (Center for Education Retention and Recruitment) and encouraged the board to support the district’s budget proposal.  Smith, the reigning GCS Teacher of the Year and a Top Five finalist in the State, praised the administration for listening to teacher concerns and taking steps in the budget and through partnerships to address many teacher concerns, including salary, class size reductions, and mental health counselors for students.

Prior to the budget’s second reading, Superintendent W. Burke Royster emphasized that the FY 20 budget reflects an on-going, multi-year effort by the administration and board to improve teacher pay and enhance the GCS learning environment.  For example, Royster pointed out that beginning in FY 12 a focus on improving salaries has resulted in the average GCS teacher salary moving from 24th in the state to the top five.  He also highlighted a two-year plan, culminating with the FY 20 budget, to reduce the ratio of students to guidance counselors to 250:1 in middle and high schools.   Finally, he focused on the importance of partnerships, including agreements with Greenville and Piedmont Mental Health Associations that provide students throughout the district with access to 84 mental health counselors.

Under current State law, taxes for school districts’ general fund are not levied on owner-occupied homes. In the recommended budget, a 6.0 mill increase to local property taxes, combined with the increased value of a local mill and additional State revenue, will fund state mandates totaling $24.7 million, and a number of priorities found in Blueprint 2023, the district’s Education Plan. The majority of these expenditures work to address teacher and employee compensation, lower the ratio of students to school counselors, reduce class sizes, ensure daily planning time for teachers, and cover costs associated with projected student population growth.

The GCS Board has the authority this year to levy up to 15.8 mills to maintain its local share of the budget and to meet population growth and inflation.  The amount available is determined by a State formula that allows unlevied mills to be carried over for three years, at which time they lapse if not used. Of the 15.8 mills, 10.1 are carryover mills that have not been utilized in the past three years by the Board of Trustees. The remaining 5.7 available mills are the result of calculations by the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office for FY 20 that use CPI (Consumer Price Index) and population growth to identify the number of mills needed to maintain current educational programming.

Under the provisions of the budget, first-year teachers in Greenville County Schools will benefit from a 10.1% salary increase over last year’s starting pay, but will be expected to work four days beyond the 190 specified in teacher contracts.  Teachers with one year of experience will also receive an annual salary of $40,000, but will be required to work only two days beyond their contract.  These days will be used for on-boarding activities such as orientation and professional development. The average pay increase for all GCS teachers will be 6.5%. 

Two budget initiatives focus on reducing class sizes at the elementary level.  The addition of 12 first grade teachers will reduce the first grade teacher:student allocation ratio in GCS from 19:1 to 18:1.  This marks the first step toward reducing the first grade ratio to 15:1, as called for in BluePrint 2023. First grade class size reduction was identified as a priority in order to help all first graders establish a firm foundation in literacy and numeracy.  The FY 20 budget also adds elementary teacher positions to reduce class size in 2nd-5th grade.

Another expenditure will reduce the ratio of students to school counselors in middle and high schools from 275:1 to 250:1.  This is the second year in a two-year plan to decrease ratios from 300:1 to 250:1.  Greater access to counselors was identified by teachers and students during the development of the Education Plan as a critical component in ensuring school safety and student development.

The FY 20 budget recommendation also calls for providing all elementary teachers with a daily planning period.  This will be accomplished through the addition of staff for computer labs, STEAM labs, and other supplemental instructional areas so that every elementary school class will spend a portion of its day in a related arts course, which frees the regular teacher to plan.  Middle and high school teachers in GCS already have daily planning time.

The budget meeting concluded at 7:29 p.m.

Highlights of Approved FY 20 General Fund Budget

Summary of All Expenditures: The following new expenditures are in the FY 20 General Fund Budget. About $24.7 million reflect required State-mandated expenditures.

Employee Compensation (State Mandates and Local Priorities)


State Employer Health, Dental, and Retirement Contribution Increases


6.0 FTE Special Ed. Personnel to Divide Multi-Categorical Classes K-2 and 3-5


12.0 FTE to Reduce 1st Grade Allocation Ratio from 19:1 to 18:1


33.0 FTE to Reduce Elementary Formula (2nd-5th) from 3 Over to 2 Over


73.5 FTE to Provide Elementary Teachers Daily Planning Period


14.5 FTE School Counselors to Reduce MS and HS Ratio to 250:1


2.0  FTE School Psychologists


1.0 FTE Certified Fire and Burglary Tech


Addition of Grade 7 at Rudolph Gordon School


Teacher Certificate Upgrades


Increase Associated with Student Growth


11 additional months for FIHS Principal salary and fringe


Certificate Exam Fees for Career and Tech Education


Leadership Development and Induction Teacher Training


CTE Instructional Materials


Third-Party Teacher Survey Instrument


HR Teacher Recruitment


Instructional Software




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