Updated – Supervisors Approve $150K Teacher Bonus, $50K Government Bonus

Citing “difficult financial times for our nation, the Commonwealth, the County and our County’s citizens,” the Clarke County Board of Supervisors broke today with its tradition of returning school carryover funds for one time acquisition requests by the Clarke County School Board. The move highlights a fundamental difference of opinion about how best to use scarce tax dollars in a challenging economic climate. In attempting to avoid concerns over earning parity between government staff and school staff, the Supervisors also approved a bonus plan for Clarke County’s non-school employees.

“We have to look at the future and the fiscal condition of the county,” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) who authored the amendment that passed four to one with Supervisor Dunning (White Post) opposed. “Most years in the past CCPS has come to the Board of Supervisors and requested supplemental appropriations for things that they need. If we approve all of the carryover money for this one purpose there won’t be anything left to give them later.”

Staelin said that the Board ultimately wants all of the carryover money to still go to the school district but believes that other needs will likely arise in the future that will also require funding.

“I want to see all of the money go to the schools but I don’t think that the entire amount should be used for this purpose,” Staelin said.

Staelin’s proposal reduced the school board appropriation to $150K from the requested $264K while also allocating approximately $50K in bonuses for the county’s non-school government employees.

Clarke County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy who has been a strong supporter of the bonus plan expressed disappointment over the Supervisors’ decision to reduce the School Board’s budget appropriation request.

“Failure to recognize Clarke County’s employees during austere times when funds have been set aside for that purpose is disappointing,” Murphy said after observing the debate and vote by the Supervisors. “To demonstrate as much fiscal responsibility as the school board has demonstrated and to then question the school board’s motives is sad.”

Acknowledging that Clarke County government employees and school district employees have not received a salary increase in the past three years and will not receive a raise in fiscal year 2012, Supervisor Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) said that for him, the lack of salary increases is not a performance question but rather a policy question.

“We all agree and are very appreciative of all of Clarke County’s government employees, including our teachers,” Hobert said. “But this is a policy decision and not whether the school staff has done a good job or not.”

Supervisor Pete Dunning (White Post), voiced opposition to allocating any funds to the bonus plan and called the request “fiscally irresponsible.”

“I’m opposed to this because the economic times don’t dictate this kind of an action,” Dunning said. “This may make some people feel good but it really bothers me as a resident, a taxpayer and a Supervisor.”

Dunning questioned the timeliness of what he repeatedly labeled as a “salary increase” especially when Clarke County’s per capita income, according to Dunning’s sources, is $23,500 compared to the average county teacher salary of $43,600.

Dunning also offered a vigorous warning of the financial challenges faced by both county government and the school division due to several looming storms on the fiscal horizon.

“For one thing the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) is really a disaster and is only funded at 70% of what it needs to be. At the same time, property values in Clarke County are down 25-30 percent and the schools are losing students. On top of that the town’s financial situation is not very good,” Dunning said. “We are faced with tremendous costs right now. Taking a raise right now sends the wrong message because we don’t have any idea of how we will pay the piper later on. We need to wait a year on this and see how things look then.”

Superintendent Murphy expressed a different a view.

“In times of austerity if we fail to recognize and support the people who take care of our children we have done a terrible disservice to the working man [and woman],” Murphy said. “FY13 is FY13 and when it gets here we’ll figure out a way to deal with it then.”

Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Buckmarsh) mirrored Dunning’s concern over how the school division will deal with future financial challenges if the entire carryover balance were dedicated to a teacher bonus.

“Next year is going to be rough and there probably won’t be any carryover,” Byrd said. “I am all for giving the teachers a pat on the back but we have a responsibility to ensure that things are safe for next year. To deplete a pot of funds that aren’t going to be replaced doesn’t make sense.”

Part of Byrd’s and Dunning’s concern stems from the fact the Clarke County School system will lose $360,000 in Federal stimulus funds next year which could place the division in a situation with minimal financial reserves to fall back on in FY12 and FY13.

Supervisor David Weiss said that he believed that the pay proposal should never have been brought forward to begin with given the current financial times.

“I think that it’s odd for government employees to get a raise when they are paid by citizens who are experiencing equally hard times,” Weiss said. “Had this proposal been funded by new money, rather than carryover funds, I would not have voted for it.”

Chairman Hobert was the only Supervisor to express support for approving the entire $246K request and at one point during the discussion attempted to offer a “friendly” amendment to Supervisor Staelin’s that proposal. Hobert said that for him the issue wasn’t as much about the money as it was respecting the School Board’s autonomy and attempting to preserve the positive working relationship that has existed between the two boards over the past three years.

“I’m opposed to the motion but I appreciate Mr. Staelin’s attempt to address the issue in a fair and balanced way,” Hobert said. “But I think that it is a fundamental error to go down this road because our policy has been to return carryover funds back to the School Board for one time expenditures. It is very important for us to honor the wishes of our School Board colleagues because they have taken courageous steps to manage their budget. It’s their decision and I think that this sends a signal that we don’t want to be sending.”

However, Hobert’s concerns did little to sway the opinions of his colleagues and the friendly amendment was quickly rejected.

CCPS Supplemental Appropriation Request Approved by Clarke County Board of Supervisors

Staelin’s resolution also authorized budget appropriations of $37,867 to the county’s FY11 General Fund, $4,444 to the Joint Services Fund and $7,689 to the Social Services Fund for the payment of a one-time bonus to employees of those agencies. Although the details of the government bonus plan have not been completely specified, the $50K amount hints of a structure comparable to the school bonus plan.

Although today’s bonus appropriation vote ended in a reluctant approval, the Supervisors went one step further to ensure that any future economic fallout from the decision will be placed at the doorstep of the school board and school administrators.

Release of the $150K bonus funding is contingent upon receipt of a letter from the School Board stating that School Board has no better uses for these funds – textbooks, technology, etc. –  in FY11 or FY12; that the School Board understands that FY13 will be a very tough year financially because $360,000 in Federal stimulus dollars will no longer be available after FY12; and that the School Board would rather use $150K from its carryover fund balance for bonuses in FY11 than to have that money available in FY13 to avoid laying off two full time equivalent staff positions.

No school board members were present for today’s debate and vote on the appropriation other than Dr. Murphy. When asked whether the school board will go forward with the bonus plan given the strong public opposition to the idea by the Supervisors Murphy said, “I have to go back to the School Board and see what they want to do.”

The next regular Clarke County School Board Meeting will be held on June 6th at 7:00 PM in the Town/County Government Center.

 

Comments

  1. Stonebroke says:

    Once again a great big shout out to your local BOS members!!!!!!! (SARCASM)

    CDN can you find out who the 1 vote was? I think we deserve to know. Thanks

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great Job Board of Supervisors because the teachers aren’t already underpaid. Of course, the administrators are GROSSLY over paid and the instructional assistants can’t even make a living wage!!!

    Michael Hobert was probably the one to vote against lowering the appropriated amount.

    CDN Editor: Chairman Hobert (Berryville) argued in favor of supporting the School Board’s decision as a matter of policy and as a way of preserving the positive working relationship that has developed between the two boards over the past three years. Supervisor Dunning (White Post) supported no funding appropriation and therefore voted against the motion authored by Supervisor Staelin (Millwood). Please watch CDN for more details on this story.

    • yousepeople says:

      Dunning voted No? Well aren’t we surprised. Pete No Dunning. Move to Loudoun. They could use a few more like you.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      I don’t think the administrators are grossly overpaid at all. They’re paid comparable to what Mr. Ash, Mr. Chuck Johnston, Mr. Judge, and other managers in the county are paid, and certainly on par with those who are administrators in neighboring divisions.

      I’ll give ya credit for the instructional assistants and others who support the teachers. If you work full-time and still qualify for government assistance, that’s sad. My grandkids are gettin a good education, but those that control the purse strings need to step up. Citing “difficult and uncertain future” economic times, while they’re sittin on $14 million in a fund balance? Yep, that $247K really makes a difference, Mrs. Byrd and Mssrs. Weiss, Staelin, and Dunning. Come on November.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      I tip my hat to you, Chairman Hobert. You seem to be the lone one with any sense on that board.

    • hoopsfan says:

      GROSSLY over paid??? ya that’s why they are leaving… Two principals this year…County east and west both pay more I work for the one east of hear and a principal can get 20,000 to 30,000 more over the mountain.

  3. Travis Goodwin says:

    Well, that’s disappointing. The BoS has had that money for 3 years earning interest, but still they demand control over how it’s spent. That’s not their duty. But the only card they have is the “no, you can’t have it” card. Nice message to your employees, that is.

  4. Reality Check says:

    That is absolutely ridiculous, aren’t they so fortunate to have money in their back pockets and not feel the crunch of the economic times. Meanwhile, the cost of living for teachers continues to rise,health insurance premiums continue to rise, money that teachers use out of their own pockets for school supplies continues to go out the door, and increasing demands of covering for reduction in staff and the inability to pay subs for various system needs is increasing. Beware Clarke County, once the economy recovers don’t be surprised when teachers leave Clarke County in mass exodus simply to be able to be paid for their years experience.

  5. Embarassed says:

    Embarassing AGAIN! The Board has to put this to a vote at 2pm in the afternoon when the citizens are hard at work so they don’t get to voice their opinion and the Board doesn’t have to hear them. All the other counties around hold the meetings around 7pm so people can take part in their government. Not Clarke. The Board does this crap to do what THEY want.
    Oh, by the way Board – what about the other county employees? Or do the teachers run the parks and rec, run fire and EMS calls, police calls, maintenance work, etc? I think the Board needs to get a certain part of their anatomy out of another certain part of their anatomy and realize they work for the citizens of the county not for themselves. They also need to realize a lot of the citizens that work for them they are short changed in pay.
    Truely an embarassment that our Board of Supervisors does such underhanded things as this, holding a meeting at 2pm. Just sad.

    • Tammy Lanham says:

      Agreed. Not only embarrassing but incredible….. bottom line: have our “Supervisors” EVER worked for the citizens of Clarke? Have they truly cared to represent us all these years or have they just made decisions despite us?

      We elected the School Board members to represent us and make some difficult decisions- and they have done so, while moving forward, planning for the future and sticking to a sadly minimal budget year after year. It is incredible to me that our SURPLUS money is NOT being managed the way Clarke’s citizens and the school board have intended.

      I agree w/Reality Check as well. Our Board Members truly do NOT feel the crunch of these economic times- like ordinary people who actually WORK during the day and cannot afford to attend afternoon meetings… our neighbors… who are the public employees, and teachers, and full time teacher “assistants” , some of whom are paid a whopping $14,000….. guess it’s not all about the money.

      The BOS honestly does not understand how their actions may ultimately ruin not only the quality of education in Clarke (through eventual teacher attrition and constant lack of appropriate funding) but also the quality of life here, as they ignore our desire to actually PLAN for our future.

      Forget funding the basic services that taxpayers support (and have come to expect) in small Counties all over Virginia (ie: emergency services, recycling centers, local tourist events, libraries, retirement communities, schools, parks etc.). It’s not like they ever supported these things, so we have learned to do without…… but now to expect us to strangle the public employees and citizens who have held on this long- as the BOS hoards our money and makes doomsday predictions about OUR FUTURE? My goodness, we are not the enemy. I say again: this is not just about the money. We are worth so much more!

      Change is hard, but our small community can survive if we trust each other and work it out together. It’s definitely time for a change.

  6. LStanton says:

    Let me get this straight: The School Board has to write a letter to the supervisors, asking “pretty please with sugar on top,” and state that it wants to use the money for a one-time payment even though times are tough and FY13 might be tougher? Really?!? This reads like a sad chapter from “Oliver Twist.”

    Even with the $150K, what happens to the rest of the schools’ money, which was appropriated in 2008? That’s $94K or so. The supervisors want to hold this money hostage, because they can’t prescribe how it’s spent once it’s in the SB’s hands. Funny that there’s no mention that David Ash has to write a similar letter to the supervisors to justify the suddenly-materializing $50K bonus plan for non-school employees. Wow…

    • Fly on the wall says:

      Does the “letter in exchange for money” angle the supervisors are demanding constitute extortion? Or, are they so hung up on the “carrot and stick” methodology that they’d really flush several years of (relatively) positive interactions down the toilet? Unbelievable…especially when they are clearly trying to make the school board out to be the fall guy in this.

  7. “…The BOS honestly does not understand how their actions may ultimately ruin not only the quality of education in Clarke (through eventual teacher attrition and constant lack of appropriate funding) but also the quality of life here, as they ignore our desire to actually PLAN for our future. …”

    Wrong.

    They know EXACTLY what their actions will do. By not properly funding education in the county, nobody will want to live here which keeps the property values low for the farmers and themselves. Their kids didn’t or don’t attend CCPS anyway, so it matters not to them.

    And yet for some stupid reason, the people that are so upset by this keep voting them back in. Blame yourselves.

    • Travis Goodwin says:

      Actually, Mr. Hobert’s son did go through the public schools. Thus, not surprisingly, he is the only one that “gets it.”

      To get the money only once that “letter” is written is asinine. This is the same pot of money that Pete demanded $500K be set aside for capital costs before any more allocation was made. Now, he’s held the rest hostage, with help from Byrd, Staelin, and Weiss, and the rest of that surplus will just continue to sit in the county account and earn them interest. How petty.

      I agree with Lonnie…November and its elections can’t come soon enough.

    • Tammy Lanham says:

      You’re right in that there seems to be a desire to push away new residents and businesses, and true that the BOS does not value public education as a high priority (thus many families do opt for home-schooling, investing in private schools or moving to neighboring counties that have more educational opportunities (sad that CCPS enrollment is going down….because so will our state funding!).

      I just don’t believe blame rests with all of us for “voting them back in”. I think the districts are oddly set, that many Clarke residents are not voting, and that qualified candidates are few and far between.

      Things have been bad before, but in the past year or two it has become painfully obvious how disconnected some of the Supervisors have become from their consituents. Major decisions are being made and not every Supervisor even bothers to attend all of the meetings- of course all of us should be more politically active I suppose- but at least people are aware we have a problem here.

      And you’re right…. with upcoming elections we do have a chance for change…

  8. Shell game says:

    Looks like the BOS has taken the carry over from the schools, redistributed most of it to all county employees and pocketed the change. It reminds me of giving my kid a $5 bill to go get a hot dog and then wondering where my change went.

    CDN Editor: In a phone discussion with Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) after yesterday’s meeting, Mr. Staelin was emphatic that the Supervisors have no intention of using the school carryover for purposes other than those requested by the school district.

    • Travis Goodwin says:

      Yet the supervisors denied the schools the opportunity to do just that – use their money (ALL of it) as they see fit, which is their authority, not the supervisors’. Mr. Staelin is talkin out of both sides of his mouth.

  9. Embarassed says:

    It’s time the citiznes of this county rise up – wipe out the entire BOS and elect new ones – and let whoever is elected that they too can be replaced! Also make sure the ones elected haven’t made a mockery of the county while on the school board – (cough) Robina – by hiding emails or “trying” to play politics. Don’t forget to take notice and ask around as to who is in Dunning’s back pocket to make sure he isn’t playing puppeteer from the side lines!!

  10. Smellin roses says:

    “I want to see all of the money go to the schools but I don’t think that the entire amount should be used for this purpose” Staelin said.

    The thing is, Mr. Staelin, you are entitled to your opinion but school money decisions are given to the School Board alone. You’re micromanaging the schools, and implying that you (and Weiss, Dunning, and Byrd with you) don’t trust the schools. If you look at the last 3 years, I think you’d find that those folks have managed money pretty well: over $2M in cuts, over 10 positions eliminated, other investments put off, etc.

    Mr. Dunning, you conveniently cite a stat (per capita income) that doesn’t equate with the average teacher salary, because it factors in those not working (like children). Try this one: the median household income in Clarke County, per the US Census, is $66,240. In that light, the average teacher salary pales in comparison; heck, it’s more than the most veteran teacher makes on their current salary scale. Additionally, what part of “one time payment” failed to register with you, Weiss, or Byrd? This wasn’t a “raise” for them, as it’s not an on-going deal. It’s a one-time payment.

    That you’re making the schools write a letter to justify the request is a joke. Odd you didn’t make the same demand of David Ash for the bonus given to the county employees.

  11. Clarke 1 says:

    The County of Clarke is becoming the laughing stock of this state….. Why do we continue to complain about this BOS problem? People need to get out and vote to make this county what it needs to be…. To answer a previous post, Mr. Dunning has been grooming Mr. McKay to be a replacement…… That will be the same old show if he is elected.. Face it, there are more people living in Berryville/Clarke that do not own farms that do…. They will always look out for their own and say to heck with the rest…. Times Change and if I need to go door to door this election season to get people to take notice, I will, and know for a fact that there are others that will do the same…… Clarke needs to be taken back and given to the citizens and not only a select few that were born with GOLDEN SPOONS in there mouths…..

    Get out and vote people, I implore you!

  12. phony data says:

    @ Smellin roses… I did a check myself and think we need to point Mr. Dunning in the right direction and tell him (redacted). That $23k figure was also from 1999.

    We have already lost good teachers and assistants. “Love of the job” will only keep good people around for so long… they do need to make a living…

  13. Tony Parrott says:

    This is sad and disgusting but not unexpected and in NO WAY is a reflection of the way most people in this community feel about our educators. Mr. Dunning is so disconnected from reality; he needs to put that 1972 encyclopedia back on the shelf and use some current data. And someone needs to tell Barbara a “pat on the back” doesn’t pay the bills. This should be an eye opener: it really doesn’t matter if it’s an friendly or unfriendly school board; funding just isn’t coming.

    Now for the real problem; county revenue. For years I’ve been told by several supervisors we are a poor county. So how poor are we? Pete says we have a per capita income of $23,500 (1999 census data says $24,488) but this is derived by taking the income of everyone 15 and over and dividing by all the people in the county. So if a family of six has an income of $100,000 they are $16,666 per capita. Not even close to $24k ea. Looking at the numbers for 2009 Clarke County has a lower poverty rate than the state average (7.2% compared to 10.2%), higher than the state average in median household income ($66,296 to $61,210) and as Pete didn’t point out a higher per capita income than the state average. Sound poor?

    But look at the school funding; out of 132 school districts we are 14th from the bottom. THE BOTTOM! The state average spend per pupil is $11,020 and Clarke is $9,241 Most of the difference is a lack of state and federal funding. Why may you ask? The state composite index says Clarke County has the means to pay more toward school spending. The index measures wealth mostly by measuring the counties land values and gross income.

    My point is simply this; the supervisors don’t have the ability to resolve the counties problems. They simply keep telling everyone that the schools are breaking the county, whether the economy is good or bad. My view is different; I believe their inability to manage and raise revenue that’s breaking the county. That’s a lack of infrastructure and business that could add support to the tax base. But I will not put everything on them because we as a community also need to take a hard look at ourselves. Are we a poor county or do we have the means to do more but just choose not to?

    As for the BOS it’s an election year and maybe we can find some people that bring solutions to the table not just more problems. But hey, they have done a great gob with open space policies.

  14. livein22611 says:

    I think the time is here for us to vote these wahoos out, but who’s running? We need to get some good candidates out there! I’ve heard of people running for Pete’s seat but is there anyone running for the other positions? We can’t vote them out if no one is running against them!