County commission votes for bonuses for school employees

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Clint Confher and Karen Hall

Staff Writers

On a split vote, Marshall County's commissioners Monday passed the resolution that allows all school employees to receive bonuses.

Last week, the budget committeemen declined to endorse the resolution, so it came to the full commission without a recommendation.

Budget committee members discussed the resolution extensively, but when it came before the commission, only Don Ledford raised a question.

"What has been done for the other county employees?" he asked.

"They got a 1 percent raise last year," replied budget committee chairman Barry Spivey.

County clerk Daphne Fagan later pointed out in an e-mail that before that it had been four or five years since county employees got a raise.

"I am fine with not getting a raise, as long as my staff gets one," Fagan wrote.

Voting in favor of the resolution were commissioners Jeff Taylor, John Christmas, Sheldon Davis, Reynelle Smith, Phil Willis, Nathan Johnson, Dean Delk, Mike Waggoner, Rocky Bowden, E.W. Hill, and Anna Childress.

Voting against were Ledford, Seth Warf, Richard Hill and Tom Sumners.

Spivey abstained, and Mickey King and Kevin Vanhooser were absent.

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

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

Three of five budget committeemen voted against the resolution for the bonuses. Commissioners King, Sumners and Willis voted no. Davis voted yes after reading a disclaimer that, although he's a school system employee, he voted his conscience and in the best interest of the county. Spivey abstained.

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 gone without a pay raise and the 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."

"I'm not against the school system," said King, a former budget committee chairman. "I can't do the others that way."