By Karen Hall
Subject to approval this week by their education and budget committees, county commissioners will be asked on Monday to approve three resolutions relating to federal Jobs Bill money. Approval of all three will result in bonuses for 662 school system employees.
Full-time teachers will get $500 each and non-certified employees will get $300 each. Part-timers will get half as much, for a total expenditure of $311,005.41.
School board members approved the resolutions at their February meeting.
They were unanimous in favor of two resolutions that are on the commission's agenda for Monday. One reflects the way the $1.2 million in Jobs Bill money was used to pay salaries at Oak Grove Elementary, and the other moves the corresponding amount of money from the regular budget into undesignated fund balance.
The third resolution - it authorizes the spending of money from fund balance (and federal projects and central cafeteria) to pay the agreed bonuses - met opposition from board member Barbara Kennedy who cast the only "no" vote.
As long ago as the December board meeting, Kennedy voiced skepticism, stating, "I don't know that we need to reward everybody equally regardless of performance. If we treat everybody the same, it's a disservice to those who do more."
"It's several years since they've had any increase," argued Harvey Jones Jr. "It's not a lot of money."
Randy Perryman agreed with Jones, but Kennedy pointed out the amount being spent for bonuses is equivalent to six teachers' salaries next year.
"Maybe they haven't had a raise, but they still have their job," she said.
Kristen Gold was also inclined to be cautious.
"There are so many things we need," she said. "I'm afraid we will have to use the fund balance just to maintain where we are."
"If we don't start doing something for these teachers, we're going to see them leaving," Jones said.
Sam Smith saw both sides of the argument, fearing shortage of money next year, but also stating "teachers deserve it."
"I'm for doing more for the teachers," Smith concluded.
Gold said she could also argue both sides, but thought a bonus would be good for morale.
To conclude the discussion, budget committee chairman Donnie Moses said, "I don't think a bonus is irresponsible - it is deserved, it's manageable, but there is some risk."
Smith and Kennedy voted against the proposed bonuses at the January meeting, but Kennedy was alone in opposition this month.
For updates on the education and budget committee meetings, and the county commission meeting, please visit www.marshalltribune.com.