Budget Committee votes against bonuses for school employees

Monday, February 27, 2012

On a split vote, Marshall County's budget committeemen last week declined to endorse a resolution to pay bonuses to school employees, apparently because there's no money for bonuses paid to deputies, clerks, road crewmen or other county employees paid from the general fund.

"I have a problem with giving teachers raises when others would not" benefit from step ladder raises or bonuses, Commissioner Mickey King said Thursday night when the budget committee considered a resolution recommended by the school board and the county commission's education committee.

"We made our county employee drop the ladder," King said of pay raises based on a pay scale.

School system employees working under a salary schedule with step raises have been paid more in recent years when that's not true for county workers, and some of those other county employees have accepted less for their work. Some have had their 40-hour workweek cut to 38 hours.

Three of five budget committeemen voted against the resolution for the bonuses. Te resolution was still scheduled for consideration during the county commission meeting set to begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, in the County Courthouse Annex at the corner of First Avenue and Commerce Street.

The federal Jobs Bill is providing the money for bonuses proposed for school system employees.

'We were told this (Jobs Bill) money would go into the (school system's budget) fund balance" of money with no specific spending plan, King said.

Increasing fund balances has been controversial among county budget committee members because of state requirements, but a reservoir of money is needed in all budgets to continue operations from one year to the next.

Commissioner Tom Sumners countered that about $900,000 of the federal money will be left in the system's fund balance.

Under the school board proposal, full-time teachers would get a bonus of $500 each and non-certified employees would get $300 each. Part-timers will get half as much, for a total expenditure of $311,005.41.

King was unmoved and expressed concern for the revenue side of the county budget because of property reappraisals that have gone down instead of up since the housing bubble burst a few years ago.

"With the way the property has been reappraised," King said, "I'm scared we won't have the money" for the entire county budget.

School Board member Harvey Jones attended the committee meeting and said teachers have one without a pay raise and he state has imposed more requirements on them.

Emphasizing that the one-time payment is a bonus, not a raise, Jones said, "Give them something to let them know we are thinking about them."

King reiterated: "The county didn't have step raises." County Budget Director Freda Terry interjected: "You all get step raises" paid to school system employees.

King: "I'm not against the school system.

"I can't do the others that way," said King, an experienced member of the budge committee.

In the end, the vote was one yes, three no and one abstaining. Commissioners King, Sumner and Phil Willis voted no. Commissioner Sheldon Davis voted yes after reading a disclaimer that, while working as maintenance director he's a school system employee, he voted his conscience and in the best interest of the county. Budget Committee Chairman Barry Spivey abstained.