By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education is ready to support a four percent raise for all of its employees.
At the BOE’s Tuesday, April 27, meeting, the board unanimously opted to approve a budget draft for fiscal year 2022, which includes a four percent increase for all employees bringing the budget to $75,171,684.
”We haven’t given a really good raise in years,” Board Member Mary Beth Dellinger said. “I just think we owe (employees the raise). I think the four percent raise will affect everybody.”
The BOE considered a budget with only the required step increase as well as budgets with a one percent, two percent and three percent raise for all employees. The four percent raise totaled about $2 million more than the step increase would have.
Opting for raises in the system was also an identified priority for new Director of Schools Jerry Boyd.
“One item I asked that we at least consider is seriously looking at the salary and wage increases, the raises,” Boyd said at the start of the meeting. “(Finance Director Brad Hale) included a one, two and three percent raise. I asked him to also include what a four percent looks like. All positions, all employees, certified, non-certified, up to a four percent, across-the-board raise. I just want to see what the numbers look like.
“I think in looking at all of the (budget) items, I know there will be decisions made, but I think we keep that as a top priority.”
The board’s chosen budget also includes the board’s list of “must have” items such as required step increases, University School revenue sharing, and electricity cost increases among other items. The board also sifted through its list of “optional items” keeping items such as $250,000 for career and technical education programs, two math interventionists and an added nurse position at Boones Creek School among other items.
But the budget, which will now go on to the Washington County Budget Committee for approval, also includes a $5,009,721 deficit.
The board opted to cover the gap with available fund balance dollars in a 5-3 vote. Board members Jason Day, Mary Beth Dellinger, Mike Masters, Mitch Meredith and Whitney Riddle voted in favor. Board members Keith Ervin, Chad Fleenor and David Hammond voted in opposition. Annette Buchanan was absent.
Beforehand, the board entertained two other motions to help close the budget gap. One included requesting that the commission cover $2 million of the deficit. The other included requesting the commission cover $1 million of the gap. Dellinger, Fleenor, Masters and Riddle voted in favor of the motion and Day, Ervin, Hammond and Meredith voted against the motion. With Buchanan absent, the tied votes were considered failed motions.
“It’s not unreasonable,” Riddle said, referring to the request for the commission to cover part of the budget deficit. “… It’s not outlandish stuff. It’s constructive figures. We’re sure they’re going to say no, but it might not be as much of a ‘no’ as we think. There’s nothing in there that’s crazy or silly or can’t be supported. It’s a reasonable use of funds. I think (Boyd and Hale) can defend it a little bit.”
Boyd added that he felt the $5 million budget gap could be decreased depending on revenue and basic education program funds from the state.
“On the $5 million gap, we do anticipate BEP funding to be adjusted,” Boyd said. “We hope that support from the legislature provides additional funds not just to Washington County Schools, but that it addresses the issues across the state. Then there were discussed increases on top of that that could result in, as (Hale) said, an additional $1-2 million on BEP funds. That would certainly lower that gap to around $3 million.
“…The $5 million figure is a huge amount, but we also know that is going to adjust down based on state revenue we anticipate receiving very soon.”
The board also voted 7-1 to approve the dietary fund budget with a four percent raise for dietary employees. Ervin was the lone “no” vote. The board also unanimously approved a request for $625,000 from the county to fund dietary capital needs.