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The Roanoke School Board worried that state funds would not be available after the coming year.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Roanoke City Public Schools staffers will receive at least a 2 percent raise.
After months of debate and consideration, the Roanoke School Board voted 4-3 to give employees raises. The move will cost about $2.1 million and came after lengthy discussion during Tuesday’s meeting.
Officials voted to give all staffers a step increase, an incremental pay increase based on time served, and if that increase doesn’t result in a 2 percent raise, then the employee will receive additional funds. Officials said the move means everyone will get at least a 2 percent raise and may receive more.
The board also approved a measure to bolster principal salaries in an effort to continue addressing what’s become known as a “sag” in the pay scale compared with surrounding school systems. The latter will cost an additional $203,000.
When it came to raises, Roanoke schools leaders have emphasized all along that they wanted to give staffers raises, but the discussion was about whether the school system could afford to do so.
The Virginia budget includes funds for the state’s share of a 2 percent pay raise for Standards of Quality-funded positions, which are positions required by the state.
Local school systems, which staff well above the minimums, would have to pay their portion of the raises, as well as raises for non-Standards of Quality positions. It is also unclear whether the state money would be available next year; its absence would put systems in the position of maintaining the same increase without state support. Those two issues have weighed heavily on local school systems when considering raises.
The ability to afford the raises was the crux of discussions Tuesday.
The system’s administration presented the board with several options. One included simply a step increase, another included a step increase plus a 2 percent raise and the third was the one selected ; officials termed it a “hybrid plan.”
An initial motion to pass the second option of a step increase plus a 2 percent raise failed with just board Vice Chairman Todd Putney and Chairman David Carson voting in favor of it.
Putney, who made the initial motion, said even doing that was difficult because there isn’t a clear picture of what financial impact the move might have long term.
“I think the school system can afford it,” he said. “I think the school system needs to do it.”
But other board members had concerns wrestling with strained finances and an uncertain economic outlook.
“I cannot support option two for a number of reasons. We are spending down our fund balance. That’s a little scary to me,” board member Mae Huff said. “We don’t have a clear picture of where we’re going.”
Board member Annette Lewis agreed.
“From what I see and what I experience, we are deficit spending,” she said.
Carson said he agreed with everyone who spoke on the issue, but felt spending the money was a risk the board should take.
“It’s a risk. I think folks would appreciate that. And folks would appreciate we are taking a risk,” he said.
Ultimately that motion failed and the board opted instead for the hybrid option, which will still allow the school system to utilize those funds in the state budget for a 2 percent raise. The state will provide about $800,000 to the school system for the raises, so the division is on the hook for about $1.3 million.
“This has been the most difficult issue the board has faced this spring,” Carson said.
In other news, the board recognized Carson with a resolution commending his years of service to the school system. Tuesday was the final meeting for the longtime board chairman, who is stepping down to become a circuit court judge.
Once he takes the bench in July, he is not legally permitted to remain on the board. After adjourning his final meeting, Carson was given a standing ovation. He has served on the board for eight years, seven as chairman.
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