Warren County Commissioner Terry Bell wants the public to know the county has kept its end of the bargain as it pertains to funding pay raises for school system employees for 2013-14.
“We are stepping up to the plate so if they don’t get their money you should say it is the School Board’s fault,” said Bell to Director of Schools Bobby Cox.
Cox replied, “I will say that. You are doing exactly what you said you would do.”
The discussion happened during a county Education Committee meeting Monday night.
Cox earlier requested $1 million to be used for permanent raises for all school system employees, amounting to about $700 to $800 per employee. The request would likely have forced a property tax increase, a plan the Warren County Commission rejected when it voted in May to keep the property tax rate at $1.9955.
The County Commission did offer to pick up the bill on some of the improvements to school grounds, thereby allowing the school system to move money out of its improvement fund and dedicate it to bonuses.
Outlay notes will be used for the school system’s security package and will include about $350,000 in expenditures, including $141,000 for security fencing, $53,000 for door locks, $70,000 for alarm upgrades, and $49,000 in fire safety upgrades.
Cox said if the school system controls its spending for the upcoming year, it can give employees a $500 to $600 bonus in November and possibly another $200 to $300 bonus at the end of the year, reaching the original request of $700 to $800 per employee for the year. “I think we can get there, just not all at one time,” said Cox.
Bell said, “I can’t hardly understand why you are not already there. If you cut $296,000 and we give you $350,000, that is almost $650,000. Then you’re not pulling money for your federal and for your cafeteria people. You are not needing that. It looks to me like you are done,” said Bell.
Cox said, “If we can get $700 to $800, then we will do that. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m just being cautious. If we can do $700 to $800 up front, and the board wants to do that, then we will do that. I am just being cautious because of what I’m seeing with the fund balance getting below that $2 million mark. That worries me.”
The state requires the school system to keep 3 percent of its coming year’s budget in fund balance.
Bell said, “You said you had $200,000 from the state and you cut $296,000. That would be $496,000 and we then are giving you an additional $350,000. So, that would be nearly $850,000. Why can’t you go ahead and commit to this $700 like we talked about?”
‘If we can do it, then I’ll do it,” said Cox. “But, I’ve got to make sure the books are closed at the end of the year and that we’ve got the money to do it. If something happened where we didn’t get our state money in or didn’t get our budget passed, then we couldn’t even make payroll,” said Cox.
Bell said, “Well, if you don’t get your state money, this is the least of your worries. If you don’t get that money, I hate to say it, but you won’t be running schools at all. Saving a little money back in your fund balance won’t take care of that.”
In other action, the committee voted to approve $116,000 for Magness Library for 2013-14. The amount is the same as requested last year.
Commissioners serving on the county Education Committee are Bell, Joel Akers, Morris Bond, Clinton Hill and Diane Starkey.