The School Board last week unanimously approved using about $6.5 million in projected savings in the current fiscal year to fund one-time payouts to employees equal to 2 percent of their current salaries.
At a press conference at O.B. Gates Elementary School before the Tuesday, May 25, School Board meeting, Superintendent Marcus Newsome said the school system’s budget office was projecting approximately $15 million in savings in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
To recognize the sacrifice and continued dedication of the school system’s employees, Newsome said, he planned to recommend that the School Board use about $6.5 million of the savings to give each employee a one-time payment equal to 2 percent of his or her base salary.
“It is my hope that this proposed action will help compensate for the lack of a pay increase this year, prepare returning employees for reduced resources next year and provide some assistance for those affected by our reduction in force,” Newsome writes in a letter to employees.
About $56.4 million was cut from the budget for fiscal 2011, which begins July 1. The spending plan eliminates about 325 positions, and includes a 2 percent pay cut for teachers and employees at grade 43 and below, and a 3 percent pay cut for employees at grade 44 and higher. Newsome will take a 7 percent pay cut in fiscal 2011.
In the current fiscal year, the money was saved by conserving fuel and other utilities, not filling vacant positions and participating in the one-time Virginia Retirement System holiday, Newsome said last week. Such year-end savings are best used on one-time expenses, he said; using them for this year’s operational expenses will only make the budget hole deeper in fiscal 2012.
Newsome also proposed that School Board ask the Board of Supervisors to return the remaining $9 million in savings for one-time use in fiscal 2012.
Chesterfield County Public Schools have long been a leader in public education in Virginia, School Board Chairman David Wyman said at the press conference, and it has also been a very visible example of how the economic crisis is impacting school divisions.
“I know that we have all been very concerned about the stress and burden placed on our employees,” he said. No other school division in the state has lost as much funding, he said. The one-time payout is a sign of the school system’s commitment to its staff and its desire for public education to succeed, he said.
At Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Newsome said the payments would be made by June 30.
“This is a relatively small, but tangible, recognition of our workforce,” Wyman said.
Chesterfield Education Association President Frank Cardella said he’d come to thank the board on behalf of the school system’s employees. The school system’s employees spent a number of months fighting alongside the board for more resources, he said, and “we want you to know we want to continue working with you.”
Matoaca resident Brenda Stewart asked why the resolution was not on the agenda before the night of the meeting. Based on variances she’s found between budgeted amounts and actual expenditures, she said, “before you spend this money, I think you really ought to check your figures.”