Clarendon County Council met on June 29 to discuss, consider, and approve the operating millage for Clarendon County School Districts 2022-2023 Budget.
A Mill is one thousandth of one dollar, and the millage rate for each county is the tax rate applied to assessed value. For example, if the millage rate is 90 mills, taxpayers will pay $90 for every $1000 of assessed property value.
However, the Counties millage rate does not include the Public School District millage rate. Last year, the County millage rate was 181, and the school millage rate was split based on district. District 2 had a millage rate of 147, and District 4 had a millage rate of 182, meaning that, depending on the district, you either had a combined millage rate of 363, or 328. These numbers do not, however, include Emergency and Rescue Services or Municipal Millage rates.
Council is still in the process of deciding their millage rate. This meeting was to vote and approve the School District Millage rate. Now, seeing as the two districts have combined, the consolidated district board has to meet with council to approve the new combined millage rate. As stated above, the previous years millage rate was 182 and 147 for districts 4 and 2, respectively. This year, the consolidated board presented a millage rate of 164, which then grew to 171.7 after they were approved for a 4.7% increase by the South Carolina Department of Revenue. This means a small tax break for Turbeville and Summerton residents, and a slightly larger taxation for Manning residents.
Clarendon School District Chief Financial Officer Cathy Williams stood before the board to discuss the millage rate near the beginning of the meeting. After discussing the 4.7% millage cap increase, Williams also asked for the approval of F.E. DuBose Career centers millage rate.
Williams also understood that the school board would have to have a public hearing on the millage rate before it was finalized. The public hearing is scheduled for July 15.
After this, council was allowed to ask Williams questions.
The first question asked of Williams came from Councilman English, who represents District 2.
English said that he had asked Williams for a breakdown of the $400,000 package that was being given to Superintendent Johnson, and that he had not received it yet.
“I got it right here,” said English before reading from the budget. Johnson then stood to inform him that it was for the office of the Superintendent, not for him alone. However, English had more questions.
“I added up the travel in the budget and it is over $200,000,” said English. “That’s a lot of travel. Clarendon County is a very small, very poor county. We have roughly 4,300 students in this County and your salary would be 11th highest in the state. To me, that is excessive and a little out of line for a poor county.”
To put this into perspective, Johnsons Salary is currently set around $225,000 per year, this is comparable to the Lancaster County School District Superintendent Salary of $228,000. However, Lancaster County School District is host to 14,208 students, meaning their superintendent serves 70% more students while making the same amount.
“I hate to be in this position,” said Blakely. “We have to do this and there is no way around it. If we pass it tonight and then you have the hearing, it’s over with and you’ve got everything you wanted. Then we take the heat and you don’t have to answer any questions.”
Arthur Moyd, a Clarendon County School District Board Member, then took to the stand.
“You all are missing the point,” said Moyd. “When District 3 consolidated, the superintendent was making $183,000 for 1,800 students. The reason [we are going here] is because you all didn’t make a fuss about [the District 3 superintendent salary]. Dr. Bain (the Clarendon School District 4 Superintendent) was being paid $216,000 for only 2,800 students. I am glad that the legislator appointed nine common-sense board members to know that we cannot afford to pay this man less than a superintendent that was making $216,000. It would not be fair.”
“We didn’t know what [Dr. Bain] was being paid,” said Blakely. “We had no say in that.”
Blakely then went on to explain a conversation he had with Bain after the final District 4 meeting. According to him, Bain informed him that she worked for a consulting company, one that was given half of her salary. According to Blakely, she also paid her expenses out of her own pocket.
Moyd then explained that Dr. Bain was receiving a $1,500 housing allowance, a $1,000 travel allowance, and that she was working only three days a week while working the remaining two days for Lexington School District 5. However, Bain tells a different story.
“My salary was a flat $900 a day,” said Angela Bain in an interview to the Times. “Taxes come out of that, and I pay $1,000 a month for housing out of my own pocket. They did not pay me milage, and did not reimburse me for any associated bills. I still worked five days a week, and when I became the superintendent in 2021, I was not given a raise, which is fine, I didn’t ask for one, but I was superintendent for both districts. After you figure in the 30% tax bracket, I was probably not even making $100,000 a year after I pay for everything. I have 41 years in education, and about 32 of them in School and District and State administration. I have hit every rung on the ladder. This is my final year in public education in South Carolina, I want my reputation to stand on truth. I was trying to be sure that the children in Clarendon County received the best education they could under my watch, and I am disturbed with the misinformation about me being put on the public record, and on social media.”
As for how this came to be, Bain said:
“The attorney for Clarendon 4 who wrote my contract is the same attorney for Clarendon School District 2 and the Clarendon County School District.”
The three attending council members eventually took a vote to approve the millage, with Chairman Dwight Stewart not voting due to the amount of attending council. Councilmen Richardson and English voting in favor and Blakely abstained, meaning the millage was passed.
“I am glad that the council approved the request,” said Senator Kevin Johnson. “This will allow them to go ahead and get their budget approved and hopefully provide a good school year for the students.”
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