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‘Punt:’ Hawkins BOE scraps new salary scale, implements old pay with 1.5% hike

September 26th, 2013 10:54 pm by Jeff Bobo

‘Punt:’ Hawkins BOE scraps new salary scale, implements old pay with 1.5% hike

ROGERSVILLE — The good news is that everyone who works for the Hawkins County School system is going to get a 1.5 percent raise in 2013-14.

The bad news is, at least for some employees, if you were scheduled to receive a pay increase based on the new 2013-14 salary scale, forget it.

The new plan, approved Thursday night, is to pay everyone based on the 2012-13 salary scale and try to get flaws in the new salary scale fixed in time for the next fiscal year.

The Board of Education’s intent in the 2013-14 budget was to give all school employees a 1.5 percent pay increase, but a new salary scale was also approved as part of the 2013-14 school budget.

Last week, school board members were informed that the new salary scale wasn’t treating some employees fairly, especially those who had worked for the school system the longest. It actually moved some senior employees backward in pay, while others had little to no pay raise, and others jumped as much as $3,000.

The Hawkins County Commission met Monday night to approve the overall $97.475 million county budget. At the request of BOE Chairman Randy Collier, that action was delayed until a special called meeting on Oct. 3 to give the BOE time to fix its budget.

On Thursday night, the BOE heard from school department heads who described the inequities of the new pay scale. Maintenance director Bill Shedden said 10 of his employees would actually go backward in pay on the new scale.

School health director Becky Little said she had one senior secretary who went backward in pay $21 while a less experienced secretary received a $3,000 raise.

There were also issues with cafeteria staff and substitute bus drivers.

Transportation Department employee Ree Qualls told the BOE that after 25 years of service, and earning a college degree to improve her work performance, her salary would be cut $3,400 on the new salary scale. Qualls told the BOE it was a “slap in the face.” Others called the overall pay scale a “disgrace.”

To clarify, however, no one would actually be paid less than what they earned in 2012-13. But their pay would be frozen “in a holding pattern” until their years of service caught up with the next jump on the salary scale. Meanwhile, many of their colleagues with less experiences and seniority would be getting substantial pay boosts.

Following a lengthy budget discussion Thursday evening, the Hawkins County Board of Education agreed to “punt” — as one board member put it.

The $54 million 2013-14 fiscal year school budget as already approved will remain the same except for two big changes.

The first big change is that all school employees, including certified staff, will be paid at the same level as they were on the old salary scale in 2012-13, but with an across-the-board 1.5 percent pay increase.

Employees who had pay-scale boosts based on the previously approved budget will lose that. Some of those boosts had already been implemented, even though the budget hadn’t been approved by the County Commission.

Those employees won’t have to refund their new pay-scale boosts to date, but the raises will be stopped except for the district-wide 1.5 percent.

School bus drivers, who weren’t on the 2012-13 pay scale, also will receive the 1.5 percent.

The second big change to the school budget will be rescinding the proposed $2.15 million shift in property tax revenue from the school general fund to school transportation.

That change would cost Rogersville $164,000 in shared property tax revenue. The Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen has already approved its 2013-14 budget including the Rogersville City School budget, counting on those funds.

City leaders told the BOE on Thursday that they weren’t warned about this funding shift, and didn’t know they’d be losing $164,000 in revenue until they read it in the newspaper.

Board member Chris Christian said the Hawkins County BOE needs to be a “good neighbor” to both Rogersville as well as Kingsport, which stands to lose about $68,000 in revenue.

The school finance staff has until Tuesday to present the revised budget to the BOE to review and give its final approval.

Gary Hicks, who chairs the County Commission’s Budget Committee, attended Thursday’s BOE meeting. He said the 21 members of the county commission need the new school budget proposal by Tuesday to have enough time to review it before Thursday’s 9 a.m. commission meeting.

Hicks told the commission Monday that if the state doesn’t have an approved county budget by Oct. 7, Hawkins County won’t be included when the state funding checks are cut in Nashville Oct. 15.

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