by Jake McElveen
Clarendon County Council met on June 29 to discuss, review and approve the 2022-2023 Clarendon County School Districts Budget Operating Mile.
A mill is one thousandth of a dollar and the mileage rate for each county is the tax rate applied to the assessed value. For example, if the mileage rate is 90 mils, ratepayers will pay $90 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
However, the county mileage rate does not include the public school district mileage rate. Last year, the county mileage rate was 181 and the school mileage rate was divided by district. District 2 had a mileage rate of 147 and District 4 had a mileage rate of 182, meaning that depending on the district you either had a combined mileage rate of 363 or 328. These numbers don’t include however not emergencies and Rates for Rescue Services or Municipal Mileage.
The board is still deciding on their mileage rate. This meeting was to vote and approve the school district’s mileage rate. Now, since the two districts have combined, the consolidated district council must meet with the council to approve the new combined mileage rate. As noted above, the previous years’ mileage rate was 182 and 147 for Districts 4 and 2, respectively. This year, the consolidated board submitted a mileage rate of 164, which later rose to 171.7 after being approved for a 4.7% increase by the South Carolina Department of Revenue. This means a small tax break for residents of Turbeville and Summerton, and slightly higher taxation for residents of Manning.
Clarendon School District Chief Financial Officer Cathy Williams stood before the board to discuss the mileage rate near the start of the meeting. After discussing the 4.7% mileage cap increase, Williams also requested approval of the mileage rate from FE DuBose Career Centers.
Williams also understood that the school board should hold a public hearing on the mileage rate before it is finalized. The public hearing is scheduled for July 15.
After that, the board was allowed to ask Williams questions.
The first question posed to Williams came from Councilman English, who represents District 2.
English said he had asked Williams for a breakdown of the $400,000 package that was being given to Superintendent Johnson, and had not yet received it.
“I got it here,” English said before reading the budget. Johnson then stood up to inform him that it was for the superintendent’s office, not just him. However, English had more questions.
“I added travel into the budget and it’s over $200,000,” English said. “It’s a lot of travel. Clarendon County is a very small and very poor county. We have about 4,300 students in this county, and your salary would be the 11th highest in the state. To me, that’s overkill and a bit out of place for a poor county.
To put that into perspective, Johnson’s salary is currently pegged at around $225,000 a year, which is comparable to the Lancaster County School District Superintendent’s salary of $228,000. However, the Lancaster County School District serves 14,208 students, which means their superintendent serves 70% more students while earning the same amount.
“I hate being in this position,” Blakely said. “We have to do it and there is no getting around it. If we pass it tonight and then you have the hearing, it’s over and you have everything you want. Then we take the heat and you don’t have to answer any questions.
Clarendon County School District Board Member Arthur Moyd then spoke.
“You all miss the point,” Moyd said. “When District 3 consolidated, the superintendent was making $183,000 for 1,800 students. The reason [we are going here] it’s because you didn’t make a fuss [the District 3 superintendent salary]. Dr. Bain (the superintendent of School District 4 in Clarendon) was getting $216,000 for just 2,800 students. I’m glad the legislature appointed nine savvy board members to know that we can’t afford to pay this man less than a superintendent making $216,000. It wouldn’t be fair. »
“We didn’t know what [Dr. Bain] was paid,” Blakely said. “We had no say in that.”
Blakely then explained a conversation he had with Bain after the last District 4 meeting. According to him, Bain informed him that she worked for a consulting company, which received half her salary. According to Blakely, she also paid for her expenses out of her own pocket.
Moyd then explained that Dr. Bain received a $1,500 housing allowance, a $1,000 travel allowance, and that she only worked three days a week while working the remaining two days for Lexington School District 5. However, Bain tells a different story.
“My salary was $900 a day,” Angela Bain said in an interview with The Times. “Taxes come from that, and I pay $1,000 a month for housing out of my own pocket. They didn’t pay me the mileage and didn’t reimburse me for any associated bills. I was still working five days a week, and when I became superintendent in 2021, I didn’t get a raise, which is good, I didn’t ask for one, but I was superintendent for both districts. After getting into the 30% tax bracket, I probably wasn’t even making $100,000 a year after paying it all off. I have 41 years in education, including approximately 32 years in school and district and state administration. I have touched every rung of the ladder. This is my last year in public school in South Carolina, I want my reputation to rest on the truth. I was trying to ensure the children of Clarendon County received the best possible education under my watch, and I am troubled by the misinformation about me that has been made public and on social media.
As to how this happened, Bain said:
“The Clarendon 4 attorney who drafted my contract is the same attorney for Clarendon School District 2 and Clarendon County School District.”
All three council members present ultimately voted to approve the mileage, with chairman Dwight Stewart not voting due to the number of council members present. Councilors Richardson and English voted in favor and Blakely abstained, meaning the mileage passed.
“I’m pleased the board approved the request,” Sen. Kevin Johnson said. “This will allow them to move forward and get their budget approved and hopefully provide a good school year for students.”