Movement toward a proposed bonus payment to Clarke County School employees continued to creep along at Monday night’s school board meeting. The Clarke County School Board approved a letter drafted by School Board Chairman Barbara Lee (Millwood) to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. The letter, requested by the Supervisors prior to releasing $150K of a $246 FY09 carryover funding request by the School Board, was in response to a directive from the Supervisors that the School Board publicly state that it had no preferred use, other a bonus payment, for the funding. However, the School Board letter stopped short of making the commitment requested by the Supervisors.
“We can’t agree to say that there won’t always be some other need for the money like books or buses” said Chairman Lee. “A bonus payment is the best use for the money as we see it and I would have liked to have used the entire $246K for the payment. This will produce long term benefits because it demonstrates that the School Board values our teachers and staff and understand that they have endured four years without a salary increase. ”
At last night’s meeting the School Board agreed that it would pay a flat rate of approximately $418 to each of its 333 full-time-equivalent employees. The flat rate payment is a digression from previous statements by school officials that the bonus payments would be proportional based on staff salary levels and contradicts statements from several Supervisors over the past months indicating their desire that higher paid employees receive a proportionally lower bonus payment than low and mid-level income employees.
While the School Board says that the bonus payment is the best use for the carryover funding, the Board of Supervisors expressed reservations about the idea in a May 24 letter to the School Board. In the letter the Supervisors asked the School Board to formally acknowledge that;
– The School Board has no better uses for these funds (textbooks, technology, etc.) in FY11 or FY12.
– The School Board understands that FY13will be a very tough year financially because $360,000in Federal Stimulus dollars will no longer be available after FY12.
– The School Board would rather use $150,000from its carryover fund balance for bonuses in FY11 than have that money available in FY13to avoid the laying off of over 2 FTEs
However, Lee and several other School Board members were resolute in their position not to agree with the Supervisors notion that the School Board is trading a bonus payment today for school books tomorrow.
“Our board is fully aware of the difficulties of both the FY12 and FY13 budgets, and wishes to assure you that we will, as in the past, continue to a) closely manage all aspects of our budgets to ensure that our students receive the best education possible within the constraints imposed by such limited funds, as well as to b) adjust our employee needs to the financial realities we are facing. We are grateful for the Board of Supervisors support of our request in the amount of $150,000, and will await your board’s final action in this regard” Lee responded in her letter to the Supervisors.
While the School Board appeared pleased to be a step closer to providing employees with a salary bonus, two School Board members stated their displeasure over the Supervisors decision to deviate from its stated policy of honoring School Board spending autonomy regarding the best use of carryover budget funding .
“I’m sorry but I don’t agree with the last sentence of the letter” said School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville). “Am I the only one choking on the last sentence?”
Welliver’s comment referred to the last line of Lee’s letter to the Supervisors which reads “We are grateful for the Board of Supervisors support of our request in the amount of $150,000, and will await your board’s final action in this regard.”
School Board Member Janet Alger (Russell) concurred. “I’m disappointed that we entrusted the money and now we’re only getting part of it back” Alger said. “I think that we should have a different plan in the future.”
However School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) said that she sees the Supervisors request more in terms of a fiscal cautionary statement rather than as an attempt to micro-manage school policy.
“I think that the Supervisors are just nervous about the economy and I don’t think that there was any intent to insult us“ Bouffault said.
At the end of the discussion the School Board unanimously approved Lee’s letter – less any provision stating that the School Board can find no better use for the $150K than a staff bonus. Review of the School Board response and any subsequent release of the FY09 carryover funds will likely be considered at the Board of Supervisors next regular meeting on June 21.