• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Revenue available for school salary increase

The Woodford County Board of Education was informed that the district will have significantly more revenue than what was anticipated in a draft budget for next school year. A discussion about how to spend an additional $550,000 in general fund revenue at a work session on April 12 led to suggestions about how to spend some of those dollars. An across-the-board salary increase of 1.5 percent for all certified (teaching) and classified positions (at a cost of about $250,000) was recommended to the board. Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said several factors led to the recommendation of a salary increase, "but I think primarily it's to show our appreciation for the job that they do every day for our kiddos." Increasing salaries has not played a significant role in staff retention in recent years according teacher surveys, board member Sherri Springate said. She suggested the district may instead want to use available dollars to hire more teachers in order to reduce class sizes. Hiring five to six new teachers in the district with $250,000 would not significantly reduce class sizes in any one school, Hawkins said. He said research shows classroom sizes must be reduced to "below 15-to-1 to have any kind of impact on daily instruction. But I do think if teachers feel valued then they give you that much more. And we've got excellent staff. And if you have excellent staff giving you that much more, how much do our kids benefit?" While he did not oppose a 1.5-percent salary increase, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV suggested the district should also explore spending more to improve programs for students, including summer school and other interventions to best "meet the needs of the student." "I think those are options we can consider with the extra $300,000," Hawkins said. Wilson said he looked forward to seeing the recommendations for those dollars "because I honestly believe" we don't talk about a lot of unmet needs in our schools. "Did anybody ask for a 1.5-percent raise? Probably not," said Wilson. "We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do." Overall, he said, "We can do more" to ensure students have programs to support their education. "There are multiple reasons (to recommend a 1.5-percent raise for our employees)," said Hawkins. "Number one, our staff has done a heck of a job. And if we get a chance to increase their salaries, I think that's a positive." A state-mandated 2 percent raise two years ago was the district's most recent across-the-board salary increase for employees, according to Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith. She said other salary adjustments have occurred before and since that increase, but those increases targeted specific areas of the salary schedule. Two factors have boosted the revenue for next school year. Property tax revenues for the school district are increasing by about $450,000 annually, according to Smith. She said the school board voted to make no change to its tax rate this year, but tax revenue will still increase by about $450,000. "The big change this year is Kroger is going to be fully on our tax base," said Smith. In addition to the revenue generated by local property taxes, the district will no longer need to purchase four school buses annually, Smith said. With no concerns about an aging fleet, she said, "We do feel confident that we can go back to" purchasing three buses a year - a savings of about $100,000 annually. As the work session began, Hawkins told board members, "We're in great shape from a budget standpoint. Our end-of-year balance is looking really, really good. Our contingency (around 11 percent) is still looking really, really good." But with a looming need for a new high school (a top priority in an updated district facility plan), people in the community may not appreciate being asked - at some point in the future - to pay more taxes to cover construction costs for a new school when school employees are receiving a 1.5 percent raise next school year, Springate said. The Woodford County Board of Education will be asked to approve a salary schedule for next school year in May. One other change will ensure all school secretary positions are working seven-hour days while also increasing their contracts to 184 days. Also, about 20 days will be added to the contract of parent liaison/interpreter Carmen Wilcox so she can "do some things in the summer," Hawkins said.

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