By Karen Hall
More than a year after the federal Jobs Bill was signed into law, bonuses for school system employees are being
"How much are we going to use, and what for?" budget committee chairman Donnie Moses asked, referring to the Jobs Bill money.
"A bonus is Mr. Dukes' No. 1 recommendation," answered interim assistant director Dr. Larry Miller. "He wants it for everyone in the system."
Miller went on to explain that Dukes was proposing a one-time bonus of $500 for all 385 certified teachers, and $300 for 675 non-certified full time employees, and possibly a lesser amount for part-time non-certified people.
"Everybody deserves the bonus," Miller concluded.
Moses agreed, stating, "I'd rather see everybody get it, even if it has to be less."
Board member Sam Smith also agreed, but expressed some reservations, especially since no extra federal money, like Jobs Bill or stimulus funds, is foreseen for next year.
"I'm all for bonuses," Smith said. "It's long overdue, but are we going to give a bonus this year and lay teachers off next year? I'm a bit concerned."
Board member Kristen Gold pointed out that it would be important to know the total cost of the bonus package, as well as the cost of any pressing maintenance needs.
Gold urged the maintenance committee to meet with supervisor Sheldon Davis and find out "what he needs done that's not in the budget."
There was some discussion of the condition of several gym floors that will have to be replaced because they cannot be sanded down any further without exposing the nail heads. School roofs are also an area of concern.
"We need to prioritize maintenance," said board member Harvey Jones Jr.
Moses responded: "He (Davis) has a five-year plan."
"Some priorities may have shifted," Gold pointed out.
"How many years have we been on this maintenance of effort?" asked Moses, taking the discussion in a different direction.
Smith said he thought it was since 2007, and stated, "You can't operate on the same dollar amount. When the stimulus money runs out, you need a healthy economy and better revenues."
"We need data before the next budget cycle," said Moses, looking ahead to next summer. "There are many new things to do with the same money."
"And fixed expenditures are going up beyond our control," added Smith.
"We've got to ask for more and explain why," Moses continued. "We've got to have our ducks in a row. Dollars per student - that's a number we never talk about. It's a conversation to have with the education and budget committees (of the county commission)."
The budget committee met Tuesday to review revenues and expenditures at the end of the first quarter of the school budget year (July-August-September).
Moses called it the "first quarterly review I'm aware of."
Studying the budget numbers posted in the eMeetings program on their new laptops, board members found that everything was more or less going according to plan. Revenues are a bit down, pending property tax payments in February, and a few line items are already at 100 percent or more of their budgeted amount.
Budget director Sheila Cook-Jones was urged to prepare resolutions to transfer money to those lines. She was also asked to advise the departments in question that they had run out of money, and tell them that if they needed more money they had to ask the board for it.