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Decision delayed on Halifax County school employees’ bonuses

School board seeks more time to look at ways to spend $1.57 mil

County school employees will have to wait a while longer before finding out whether they will receive performance bonuses this year after school board members voted unanimously Monday evening to get more information about the latest round of federal funding that will be used to pay the one-time benefit.

 


It was announced Friday that Halifax County Public Schools will be receiving $1,572,136.00 as part of the Federal Education Jobs Legislation.

 


When contacted Friday afternoon about the federal funding headed to the county, school officials said no final decision had been made on how the money will be spent.


However, after meeting with Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark and Finance Director Bill Covington later Friday evening, School Superintendent Paul Stapleton said he planned to recommend the school board use the funding to provide bonuses of between $1,200 to $1,500 for school employees.


School board members agreed to add that item to the agenda for discussion at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting.


According to a superintendents’ memo issued Monday by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Patricia Wright, “Funds may only be used for compensation and benefits and other expenses, such as support services, necessary to retain existing employees, to recall or rehire former employees, and to hire new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary or secondary educational and related services.”


Her memo further states, “Funds may not be used for general administrative expenses or for other support services expenditures meeting federal definitions.”


In addition federal funds may be used to restore reductions in salaries and benefits and to implement salary increases for the 2010-2011 school year, according to Wright’s memo.


During the school board’s monthly meeting Monday night, Stapleton emphasized a portion of the memo which states, “For purposes of this program, the phrase ‘compensation and benefits and other expenses, such as support services’ includes, among other things, salaries, performance bonuses…”


Stapleton told school board members he recommends they consider giving “a performance bonus to each employee regardless of full-time or part-time status excluding the superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent for instruction and chief financial officer.


“This money can only be used in the jobs area,” Stapleton said noting bonuses could be paid to bus drivers, janitors, food service workers, teachers, aides and principals.


He said each employee could be eligible to receive between $1,200 to $1,500; however, an exact amount will not be known until the school financial officer has an opportunity “to crunch the numbers.”


He pointed out the federal money will not be available until Oct. 1 of this year but must be spent within one year.


Deputy Superintendent Clark told school board members it is unlikely schools could use the funds to add employees.


After listening to the superintendent’s recommendation, ED-5 school board representative Dr. Roger Long said, “I love the idea of giving bonuses to school employees.”
And ED-1 representative Devin Snead agreed saying, “I am all for giving money to the employees.”


Snead questioned whether administrative staff could look into possibly setting up a scholarship fund to assist teachers in continuing their education.


“I would like to be able to get more bang for the buck,” he said.


ED-4 representative Joe Gasperini and ED-6 representative Fay Satterfield both said they wanted more information and time to consider how the funding should be spent.


Each asked for “hard numbers” before they voted on the superintendent’s bonus recommendation.


Trustees voted 8-0 to delay taking action on awarding bonuses to allow administrative staff more time “to crunch the numbers” and see how much each employee would be eligible to receive as well as look into other ways the money could be spent.


The board is expected to further discuss how to spend the federal windfall of almost $1.6 million during its Oct. 14 meeting to be held at Cluster Springs Elementary School.