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PE Schools Eye Employee Pay

PRINCE EDWARD – County school board members will wait to fill in the blank on how much additional money staff will receive in the coming year.

The board has tentatively scheduled a meeting for May 19 at 5 p.m. to consider options.

County supervisors agreed in April to increase local funding to the schools by $226,520 so the school board – though not bound by the board of supervisors' action – could provide a three percent bonus for school workers. (The school board was looking to provide a 1.5 percent pay raise with level funding but had sought an additional $275,000 in County funds that would have allowed them to provide a pay increase of three percent.)

The decision ball on how to spend the funds is now in the school board's court.

Director of Finance Cindy Wahrman detailed that with the funds factored for the 1.5 percent pay increase and the additional funding, they have $476,000 to be used as compensation for employees.

“Discussions have been held with regard to how that compensation should be provided to the employees of the school division and…there are three options that (Superintendent) Dr. (David) Smith and I have reviewed and offered to you as suggestions and if there's any other ideas that you may have we'll review those items as well,” Ms. Wahrman said.

Possible options detailed included a three percent bonus for all employees, which would cost $252,059; a one and a half percent salary increase ($250,275) with a 1.5 percent salary bonus ($226,035) totaling $476,310; and a one percent salary increase ($166,843) with a two percent salary bonus ($301,373) totaling $468,216.

School board Chairman Russell Dove offered two more options factoring a fixed dollar amount for a bonus rather than a percentage increase. That, he cited, would give each employee-the one that makes $20,000 and the one that makes $50,000 the same.

Another option, he suggested, was a combination of one percent salary increase and a fixed bonus versus a percentage bonus.

Exactly how the two additional options take shape would need to be fleshed out. While he hadn't considered the differentiation between full and part time, Dove noted that he had had some consideration of differentiating between teachers and classified – having one set amount for teachers and another amount for classified personnel. Dr. Smith suggested it might be wise to add another tier, part-time employees.

Several board members commented on the proposal. Dr. Osa Sue Dowdy thought the fixed amount would be better than a percentage; board member Dr. Lawrence Varner favored the compromise of having a one percent salary plus the fixed rate bonus.

The one percent salary bonus, Dr. Smith said, would allow them to advance everyone to the next step (in pay) and not result in another year of frozen steps. It could work well in satisfying concern on both sides.

“We're also very much aware of the need to hold down our…obligation on future budgets,” Dr. Smith said. “There's still a lot of uncertainty about what next year's budget's gonna look like…including what VRS rate increases are going to be. Everything that we're hearing is that those increases will be large and so we don't want to create a huge obligation…for example giving all of the increase in raises and so the bonus idea combination really does help the employees; it helps in terms of future budgets, as well.”

That's the reason for proposing the bonuses, Dove also cited; it gives them less reoccurring obligations in the future. While he would also offer that he's not saying employees don't deserve whatever percentage raise they can give, they have to worry about future financial obligations.

Should workers receive a one percent increase, it would offer some benefit to those who have a longer tenure of service, one board member cited.

Still, dollar figures haven't been worked out for such a proposal and the board opted to wait until a possible May 19 meeting to take up the issue where they could weigh a breakdown of where the additional funds can be distributed within the option they select.

Dr. Smith also said he did not thing the delay would affect job offers.

Dr. Varner would also offer that he would hope that the fixed amount would not apply to new employees, although one percent increase would.