School Board backs one-time bonuses
Size of employee awards undecided as county district revenue feeds construction
Bonuses are in order for Pulaski County Special School District’s 2,015 full- and parttime employees, the district’s School Board members generally agreed Tuesday night, but determining the amount remains a work in progress.
Pam Fitzgiven and Emry Chesterfield, leaders of the district’s Personnel Policies Committees for certified and support-service employee groups, asked the board to approve one-time awards of $2,500 per employee.
Fitzgiven noted that the district teachers did not receive a bonus or an across-the-board raise in either of the past two school years.
“We also recognize that the district wants to maintain a fiscally sound budget,” she said. “Therefore we are asking the board to approve a one-time bonus for all certified employees rather than ask for a recurring salary increase.”
Denise Palmer, the district’s chief financial officer, presented the School Board with options of $1,000, $1,250 and $2,500 bonuses for certified employees, including teachers; and $500, $625, $1,000 and $2,500 awards for support staff.
The $2,500 bonuses for both employee groups would be the most expensive option at a cost of $5.88 million, Palmer said. The least expensive would be $1.8 million for a $1,000 bonus to teachers and $500 to the support staff members.
The cost of any bonus would come at a time when the 12,000-student district is in the middle of building a new Mills High School in the southeast section of the district and a new Robinson Middle School in the west, and construction of a significant expansion of Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood is imminent. District leaders announced earlier this year that the cost of the new Mills school is millions of dollars short of the $50 million the district committed to spending in 2014 in federal court to make the school equal to newer schools in predominantly white areas of the district.
The district has recommitted to the $50 million for the new Mills High, which is to open next August, but money for the employee bonus and for Mills will have to come from the same operating revenue pool, Palmer said.
Interim Superintendent Janice Warren said Tuesday that the board may have to decide later to issue second-lien bonds as a way to raise between $8 million and $13 million to meet the construction expenses.
Board member Brian Maune asked for more options, saying that he doesn’t want to give different bonus amounts to different employee groups. He also asked whether an across-theboard raise would be preferable — in part because that would be paid out to employees over time rather than in a lump sum.
Board members agreed to hold a special meeting Nov. 29 on the issue.
“I desire nothing more than bonuses or raises in the future,” Board member Eli Keller told the employee-group leaders. “My reluctance to say something tonight is because I don’t want us to slide back to the debacle of being under state control.”
The board on Tuesday approved $1.29 million in addition to what was its $37.7 million building contract with Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. for the Mills campus. The changes include a new ticket booth at the football stadium, enhancement to the indoor athletic facility and the athletic plaza, and installation of stage rigging and a drapery system. The building contract does not include equipment, furnishings and design costs that are also part of the Mills’ project.