published Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

School board discusses employee bonus last time before vote


by Kelli Gauthier

After discussing a controversial employee bonus for the third time, the Hamilton County school board is ready to vote it up or down and move on.

"It's time we put it on the agenda and put it to rest," said Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Everett Fairchild.

The issue of whether to give all school system employees a one-time $400 or $500 bonus, paid for largely with leftover money from the federal Education Jobs Fund program, first surfaced in early December.

The school system also must use $327,500 from its general purpose budget to cover bonuses for nonclassroom personnel.

Since then, a vote has been twice postponed. After Monday night's work session, the bonuses will be added to the agenda for this month's board meeting on Feb. 10.

Tommy Kranz, the school system's chief financial officer, gave a presentation Monday on how Hamilton County could spend the remaining $2 million of federal grant money.

If not used for bonuses, the money could be used to make up a projected budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012 or to continue paying for stimulus-funded positions that otherwise must be eliminated at the end of this school year.

Balancing the budget with stimulus funds would make for a larger budget deficit in 2013, Kranz said.

"If the jobs bill goes toward balancing budget, some expenses come out, they're paid for with jobs bill money," he said. "But unless those jobs are eliminated, they come back in 2013, increasing the deficit. We're deferring or delaying it for one year, is what we're doing."

If the money is used to pay for stimulus-funded jobs for an extra year, those positions still must be eliminated in 2013 when the jobs bill money runs out, Kranz said.

Board member Joe Galloway, who voted against discussing the bonuses at the January meeting, said he had changed his mind and would likely vote for the bonuses.

"I'm leaning toward voting for [the bonus]," he said.

Many of the people in the temporary, stimulus-funded positions that will be eliminated will be given first priority when the system makes new hires, which Galloway said made him feel better.

But board member Rhonda Thurman, a staunch supporter of eliminating positions once their funding has gone away, said that this time it is important to keep the stimulus-funded positions around for at least one more year.

"Do you think that teachers would rather give themselves $500 rather than give their colleagues another year of work?" she asked. "I know they [school system employees] haven't had a raise in several years, but there are many people in Hamilton County who haven't had a job in several years."

Jennifer Woods, a teacher at Washington Alternative School who attended Monday's work session, called the meeting "disheartening."

"To imply that teachers are insensitive toward what's happening in the community ... there are a lot of teachers who are the only ones working in their family. While $500 isn't a lot, it's nice to be appreciated."

Board member Jeffrey Wilson said that, in a tough economy, there's always something else you could spend money on.

"At some point I think it comes down to whether you value people, and I think this token gesture would show that," he said.

Board member Mike Evatt, who initially called for Monday's work session, said he still thought he would vote against the bonus in favor of extending the employment of stimulus-funded classroom jobs.

"I'd like to see us keep people as long as we can," he said.

More:

Federal grant may fund bonus for school workers

School worker bonuses tabled

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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jpo3136 said...

The last time we got a fat check for a free few hundred dollars, it was from President George W. Bush, right before he trashed the economy. Everyone paraded around with their tax rebate checks, talking about how they were going to --it sounds bad now-- stimulate the economy by buying a DVD player.

Not kidding. People not only said it, some of them believed it. Many of those same people today would like to buy groceries or have a job, instead.

Why not do something unprecedented with the money: actually provide a means for soon to be fired employees find a job. Send them back to school, get them a placement service, and find out what it takes to get them re-hired somewhere. You know you will have to let them go. Let them go with class.

It almost never happens anymore.

It'll be horrifying because some moron will say some nonsense like "We don't hire unemployed people," or some such idiocy. Yet, don't let stupid people get you down. Despite your best efforts, there will be a lot of them.

How many of these people who are about to lose their jobs are certified as teachers? Doesn't that take about a year if they have a degree to begin with? Don't you have about a year left to keep them on?

Build another teacher.

February 1, 2011 at 6:55 a.m.
Chatta7 said...

Who will step up and sacrifice now for the future of our children? Everyone in the county, state, and nation knows we need to tighten the belt. Nobody is willing to do it. Not even the people that claim to know our children best and speak of how important their future is. "Me and now"

I'm sure it's not as nasty as that in many teacher's heads. It's not any teacher's fault this hasn't been yea'd or nay'd and put to bed. However...

If there was ever a time in the last 50 years for people to suck it up and get back to work, well, that's right now. I can think of plenty of situations in numerous vocations where people are learning what sacrifice means.

February 1, 2011 at 7:16 a.m.
WhoKnew said...

Hamilton County teachers have not had a raise at all in I want to say three years. Is it really going to kill the school board to show a little appreciation to those on the front line every day. The board had no problem taking money (Janice Boydston).. Come on if you are not going to give the teachers a raise then at LEAST give them a little bonus!

Thank you teachers for all you do! I appreciate you, and I wish those in a position to help you would!

February 1, 2011 at 1:14 p.m.
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