By Karen Hall
Bonuses for Marshall County teachers and other school staff moved a step closer to reality at last week's school board meeting.
"It's my recommendation that you pass it," said schools director Roy Dukes.
"I think it's long overdue," agreed Randy Perryman.
Board member Harvey Jones Jr. reported he had spoken with several county commissioners about it, and they "don't see a problem."
"They feel like they (the teachers) deserve it," Jones said.
Board members voted 7-2 in favor of a motion to instruct Dukes to prepare a resolution for county-commission approval that frees the money for distribution.
"We can probably get on the county commission's agenda for February," said chairman Mike Keny.
The total amount is $311,005.41, which represents $500 for every full-time certified teacher; $300 per full-time classified employee; $250 for each part-time certified employee; and $150 for part-time classified employees.
The two board members who voted against the raises expressed reservations during the discussion.
"It's six teaching positions for next year that we don't know if we have money to fund," said Barbara Kennedy.
"Don't forget the $200,000 that was cut from the federal budget," she added.
Sam Smith was curious how much of the Jobs Bill money would be left in fund balance after paying the bonuses.
"There's $900,000 conserved for next year," said budget committee chairman Donnie Moses.
"You're comfortable we can do this?" Smith asked.
"You could present a scenario where it would be a disaster," admitted Moses, but continued; "It's deserved. It's manageable, but there is some risk."
Kennedy raised another concern, stating, "The other shoe is going to drop" that Marshall County is not using the Jobs Bill money the way it was intended, spending only some of it on teachers, and putting the rest in fund balance.
"It's pretty clear we've done an end-around," Kennedy said. "It sounds fraudulent."
"Call it flexible," Moses said.
"I'm pretty concerned," said Kennedy, but Keny confirmed that the idea of how to move the Jobs Bill money to fund balance came from a meeting between Dukes and other schools directors, and was being done in other counties as well.
It entailed receiving the Jobs Bill money into the schools' federal budget, moving it to the general purpose school fund, and using it to pay a certain number of teachers' salaries. The money in the general fund that would have been used for those salaries could then be moved to fund balance. Board members unanimously approved a resolution for county commissioners to vote on, which details this amendment to the budget. This resolution is on the commission's January agenda.
"This moves the money as we always intended," Moses explained.