Fort Mill school employees will get a four-percent salary increase with Tuesday night’s unanimous approval by trustees of a $149.9 million budget for the upcoming school year.

The board worked to neutralize a 13-mill increase in millage rate for the operational budget by decreasing the debt millage rate by the same amount, with a commitment to keep the debt millage at the lower rate for “a few years,” said Leanne Lordo, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations.

Superintendent Chuck Epps issued this statement after the meeting: “In a time when teacher compensation has been a major topic of discussion, our district and board remain committed to offering competitive salaries in order to maintain our high standards of education for the long term. We are proud to be a leader in the state in both education and teacher compensation.”

School trustees could have raised taxes higher to 14 mills to fund more items for the school district, but they agreed with the administration on 13 mills. Some trustees had expressed concern about creating an unfriendly business climate with high taxes, which is a bigger burden for small businesses and can drive them to other cities.

School officials say they are continuing their efforts “to be good stewards of taxpayer funds,” a press release says.

“The district will use a variety of methods to offset the millage increase on the general operational budget by lowering the debt service millage,” the district said in a release. “The offset will generate a tax neutral status for commercial businesses, rental properties and vehicles, while offering a tax reduction to residential home owners.”

The approved budget for the 2019-2020 school year includes the salary increase as well as a step increase for qualified employees, new positions for growth at current schools and the opening of Catawba Ridge High School. Substitute teachers also get $5 more a day in the new budget.

The district offers a 15-percent higher salary scale than the state teacher minimum and provides a starting base salary for new teachers of $40,250.

“This scale places the district as the highest base salary in York County an one of the highest in the state,” a FMSD press release says.

Superintendent Chuck Epps and Board Chair Kristy Spears at Tuesday night’s meeting, where trustees approved a $149 million budget for the upcoming school year, including employee salary increases.

School Board Chair Kristy Spears says the board’s mission is to ensure students receive a high quality education.

“Taxpayers have remained supportive of the district as we have managed the growth in our area,” she said in a written statement. “It is also our goal to be responsible community partners and use options when available to support our community as they have supported us.”