Trustee explains school budget vote

In 2011 and 2012 to save classroom teaching positions, the School Board of Pickens County froze teacher pay. With the building program behind us, the board made it a priority to make up those skipped pay raises over time.

While giving teachers three annual pay raises next year is admirable, it was reckless financially. As a result, I voted against the budget.

That third pay raise costs $1.0 more a year, and is funded with savings – that recurring expense is funded with one-time money. That’s a financial no-no because for the first time in years, the next budget will start in deficit.

The administration said it will cut another 15 classroom teachers to plug that deficit. They’ve already cut 55 teaching positions in 2 years. So that will raise it to 70 teaching positions gone. How is that going to help the students? In a district where 25% of the students do not read at grade level, it won’t.

I do not see it as good public policy to eliminate teaching positions, put more children in the classroom, and use the savings to give extra pay raises.

I would have accomplished the same thing, in a more responsible way. For this budget I would have given the regular teacher pay raise, plus one extra raise – solving half the problem. Then when extra TIF revenue comes in in 2017, I would have funded the second extra pay raise with that recurring revenue – solving the other half of the problem then.

Social Security recipients, workers in the private sector and many business owners when 2, 3 and 4 years without pay raises and no one is making up those pay raises. I think my pay as you go plan for making up those lost pay raises for teachers still would have been generous. Plus it would have been the fiscally sound way to pay for that recurring expense, and no more teaching positions would have been eliminated.

Alex Saitta

School trustee

School District of Pickens County

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