The Henry County Board of Supervisors heard concerns about the teacher pay portion of a compensation study at a meeting Tuesday.
Mary Martin, who is one of two candidates seeking the At Large seat on the Henry County School Board, referenced the compensation study released in June.
In addition to school division employees, the results of the study included county employees, as well as those employed by the sheriff’s office and the Public Service Authority (PSA).
Martin noted that in September, County Administrator Dale Wagoner presented “a study for the county employees with a recommendation for a raise, which they were given. That’s great, I love it when anybody gets a raise, but at this point, I hadn’t heard anybody address the school compensation for the teachers.”
For that, she said the county took “$100,000 from federal loan assistance and travel contingency funds and $397,000” from interest income from the jail construction account.
The funds actually were from the Federal Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Funds, which means it’s not a loan, and therefore, the county does not have to repay the funds.
Regardless, Martin said she thought the interest funding “would have went to pay down the taxpayer’s debt on the jail, but if you want to give folks raises with that that’s great, but include your teachers,” she said.
Martin said she didn’t know whether there is a lack of communication between the two boards or if it’s just something “nobody’s gonna fool with. Lord knows, I hope that’s not the case.
“I have a lot of teachers asking me to come here tonight and ask the question why hasn’t it been addressed, and is it going to be addressed, is it going to be presented by Mr. Wagoner, or do we need to have the school administration come in and present it. But somebody needs to tell the school system and teachers one way or another,” Martin said.
She asked if the board was going to consider the recommendations or if there would be no discussion and the matter just goes away.
“I’m not ready to accept that we don’t have any money because we found money for the county raises. I’m not knocking that, I’m happy the county got raises, but they found $497,000 to do the initial implementation for the county raises,” she said.
The study, Martin said, recommended a 5.3 percent to six percent increase for teachers. Teachers who had 30 or more years of teaching would get a little more than that to make them comparable to the surrounding areas.
She added there’s not been any discussion from the board that she’s been aware of, at least not publicly.
Wagoner said he spoke with School Superintendent Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis about the pay study.
“She conveyed to me that the school system has not fairly vetted their study recommendations,” Wagoner said.
The county’s pay study impacts 432 employees; the school division’s study impacts 1,112 employees.
County staff spent thousands of hours going through the recommendations to make sure they were accurate, the market data was compared to localities it should be compared to, and the many factors that go into a compensation study, Wagoner said.
“As you know there was quite a bit of transition in the school system with the superintendent and assistant superintendent,” he said. Blake-Lewis “simply told me they had not had the resources and time to adequately vet that compensation study and come back with a recommendation.”
To his knowledge, Wagoner said the school board has also not taken any action on the school’s compensation money.
“I think it would be premature at this point to action on a school-related matter before the school board ever takes action on it,” he said.
Henry County Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Administrative Services Dr. Benjamin Boone said the results of the study weren’t released until the end of May, the beginning of June.
“At that time, our budget for this fiscal year was already developed. We actually had to bring the budget back to you all in early July with the skinny budget that was passed,” he said.
The teachers and employees all received a 7 percent raise at that time for this fiscal year at the time, Boone said.
“As we look for our budget for next year, we are using the salary study as a tool and resource as we develop our budget for next year and look at compensation for teachers and employees,” he said.
Noting the county’s school system, and having a strong school system, is the backbone of the county’s economic development, Martin said, “This should be as high of a priority on your list of things to do as getting cops in here. We have got to keep them at a good pay scale.”
Martin believes there needs to be better communication and transparency between the school board and the board of supervisors.
“I’m hoping that in the very near future, we’re going to hear some discussion from this board concerning the compensation study and what it recommended for the Herny County School teachers because I’m very disappointed that it hasn’t even been mentioned,” she said.