Teachers Get Raise

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Despite level-funding from the County, full-time Cumberland County School employees can expect a two percent raise in the upcoming year.

The Cumberland School Board narrowly voted to approve the superintendent's proposed amended budget during last week's regular meeting. Two of the three school board members present approved a budget that included funding for two percent raises for all full-time staff, a reading specialist and increased cost for health insurance. It also brought the total amount of cuts from the current year's budget to approximately $418,000.

Two months ago the school board approved a budget for the upcoming year that included a request for an increase of $337,421.89 in County funding, beyond the $3.9 million received the previous year.

Email newsletter signup

However, because the Cumberland Board of Supervisors denied the request for a funding increase, the school's operating budget had to be amended to make up the difference.

Before voting against the recommended amended budget, George Lee Dowdy III, District Two, stated, “I disagree with the assumption that this is level-funding.”

“You know, there is cost for supplies, and logistics go up, increases in power usage, all those are factors. They can say 'level-funding,' if they want to,” Dowdy stated during discussion of the amended budget, “It's not level-funding for what we need to progress the students at Cumberland County Public Schools through the next year, in my opinion.”

Ginger Sanderson, District One, and George Reid Jr., District Four, both voted in favor of the amended budget.

However, Sanderson concurred with Dowdy, pointing out that while the board only requested an increase of approximately $337,000 from the County, they are cutting more than that amount, $418,000, from the previous year's budget because of the County's “level-funding.”

Neither school board members Eurika Tyree, District Three, and Dr. Christine Ross, District Five, were present. However, Dr. Ross, who told The Herald she was unable to attend the meeting because she was out of the state on business, left a written statement.

She addressed Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amy Griffin, writing that the budget she had built earlier in the year was “based on the critical needs of our students, our school system and our county. Unfortunately, the board of supervisors did not fund your requested budget as proposed for the 2013-14 school year. Thus, I cannot, in good conscience, approve the revised budget proposed tonight.”

When asked why he voted against the budget, Dowdy stated that he did not have any complaints about any of the particular recommended amendments.

“We need more money to offer the students what they need. I mean, everyone talks about how we're in a rural county, but yet nobody wants to make it better, apparently. Especially those who hold the pocketbooks….If we keep agreeing to whatever they do…where does it all end?” he said.

The biggest cut to the previously approved budget is through the elimination of two teaching positions, saving the division over $130,000.

“These positions, although eliminated, are through attrition. So, there's not a staff member losing their job, it's just we're losing those positions,” Dr. Griffin explained to the school board during last Tuesday's meeting. She went on to explain that the decision was based on enrollment numbers.

The approved amended budget also eliminates the step increases previously approved by the school board that would have cost over $156,000.

She did not recommend step increases at this point because they were only for certain employees, based on level of experience, and there was no state funding to help pay for it, Dr. Griffin explained to the board.

The school cut $110,000 in technology and maintenance funding when the current 2013-2014 budget was approved. The amended budget cut an additional $5,000 to those two areas, as well as a $17,000 cut in unemployment insurance.

The amended budget includes increases for health insurance costs, a reading specialist and a two percent raise for all full-time employees.

The two percent raise for all full-time employees will cost $172,000, according to the amended budget. According to Jones, $97,314 to fund the raise will come from the State.

Dr. Griffin explained her rationale to the board. “We wanted to keep the two percent salary increases for all staff because the State is providing funds for the SOQ [Standards of Quality] positions and we didn't want to lose that State funding and lose the opportunity, when there are funds available, for a two percent raise,” she said.

Jones explained to The Herald that in order to receive the nearly $100,000 in State funding for the raises, the school is required to contribute $22,447 in local money. The school is paying an additional $52,000 to cover the expense of raises for the remaining full-time school employees, according to Jones.

The reading specialist position is budgeted to cost $62,200. Two-thirds of that cost will be provided by the State, while the school pays the remaining third, according to Jones. The elementary school recently applied for a waiver as a first step towards obtaining that funding.

Dr. Griffin pointed out to the board that both the State and the administration believe a reading specialist is needed at the elementary school.

The amended budget also keeps the increased costs for health insurance in the budget, totaling $63,200.

Concluding the meeting, board members revisited the issue of the budget.

“I think, eventually, we're going to get into a stalemate where we won't be able to offer things that students need because politicians won't show the money,” Dowdy said.

“We continue to show the way, and the right way, to do more with less. And there's no complaining about it. And, if you do, you keep it at home, because we're not hearing about it,” Sanderson said, commending the staff.

She continued, “we all know that, from Dr. Griffin throughout the school system, the bus drivers, the custodians, everyone is having to do extra; be it more meetings, attend more workshops, do more trainings…I hope that the board of supervisors will see the work that you've done when we graduate our seniors on Friday.”