By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 12, 2018 | 12:35 p.m.
School board chair ‘doesn’t foresee’ bonuses moving forward this year.
PRINCE GEORGE – The chairman of the Prince George County School Board said they have not ruled out the possibility of being able to provide bonuses to school division employees who opt to say on-board for the upcoming school year, but the likelihood of those bonuses being doled out is shrinking.
In an interview, Prince George School Board chairman Robert Cox said discussions on the topic of employee bonuses have been placed on hold following the county’s decision to provide the school division with only half of the requested $2.7 million in funds from the previous fiscal year that went unspent by Prince George County Public Schools.
In May, Prince George County supervisors voted to return $1.3 million in unspent funds to the school division to use by the end of this fiscal year, which wraps up on June 30, while earmarking an additional $254,000 that would be appropriated in the next fiscal year to “assist with reducing employee health insurance contributions” following a vote by both boards to remain together in health insurance coverage for the 2019 fiscal year.
“Everything is kind of on hold right now,” Chairman Cox remarked. “It did not come back up in the carryover funds discussion and, while I don’t want to say it won’t come back up, but I don’t foresee it returning this year.”
Prior to supervisors’ decision to provide a total of $1.6 million of the $2.7 million in funding requested by Prince George Public Schools, the school board had a number of projects that would have utilized the the full amount of carryover funding, had it been approved by county leaders.
According to school board documents, the proposed bonuses were one of the most expensive items within the school division’s list of projects that would’ve utilized the carryover funding. The bonuses, which would see a bonus of $500 given to all full-time employees and $250 to all permanent part-time employees in July of 2018 after they sign a continuing contract to stay with the school system for the 2019 fiscal year, would have cost $350,000 for full-time staffers and $50,000 for part-time staff members. In terms of cost, the bonus proposal was only bested by $700,000 that was proposed to be spent on security-related costs, including costs to place “additional police presence in three” of the county’s elementary schools where a school resource officer is not in place presently – Walton, Beazley, and South Elementary Schools – for the remainder of the school year at a cost of $12,000, replacing doors at several schools, adding cameras to “areas in schools that have been identified as blind spots,” adding monitors for additional security review, and adding and replacing interior locks, fobs for all police officers to be able to enter the school buildings at a moment’s notice, among other spending, and another $700,000 in costs related to technology and textbook funds.
After supervisors confirmed the reduced funding, the school board met and worked to prioritize what projects and initiatives would be funded and what others would be dropped from the carryover funds discussion.
“Of course, we didn’t get the amount that we had requested and that did take a lot of the items off the table,” Cox explained, noting that much of the money did go toward security-related costs and a number of capital projects, including window replacements at South and Harrison Elementary Schools and repairs to the school division’s track, which will take place over the summer while schools are out of session.
Other funds from the carryover dollars provided back to the school division were also placed earmarked to address those technology and textbook fund needs.
As the end of the current fiscal year approaches, now just over three weeks away, Cox said they are working to finalize their budget while waiting for lawmakers in Richmond to provide solid data for state funding the school division can expect from the Commonwealth, with leaders in both the House of Delegates and state Senate both providing a budget for consideration with Medicaid expansion being the sticking point for many state representatives in bringing a budget to the floor.
The chairman did say, while the discussion of bonuses is currently at a standstill following to lesser-than-expected carryover funding, the matter may be looked at again once the school division sees how much money can be expected to come in from the state, providing the school board with a full scope of what their budget will look like for the 2019 fiscal year.
“I would say this is still up in the air as we are still waiting for the state to settle on their budget,” Cox remarked. “Once we get that, we can get back into our budget hearings and try to finish everything up and get stuff done.”
School employees may still see an increase in their pay as a result of the now-completed salary study that addressed compensation issues, such as the number of steps within scales and compression of salaries.
In February, as part of her budget, Prince George School Superintendent Renee Williams said new scales will be implemented on both the instructional and non-instructional staff side. As a result, Williams said the Instructional Salary Scale realignment resulted in an average pay increase of 2.76 percent with a range of 1.15 to 3.92 while the non-instructional scale realignment saw an average increase of 4.48 percent in pay with a range of 1.26 to 9.14 percent.