After discussing the possibility for months, the Fayette County Board of Education voted to give employees a 1-percent across the board raise to be instated beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
The 1-percent bump was originally put forth at a meeting earlier this year, but Superintendent Jody Barrow decided to pull it back for a few months as more revenue figures came in.
It had been noted that a large chunk of the district’s revenue comes during the month of November. Finance Director Tom Gray indicated Monday that those collections had been “significant” at around $37.8 million. He also said expenditures were tracking around $3.3 million under budget, leaving the system with about $8 million in reserves above and beyond the nearly $17 million the district has designated to cover a 10-percent reserve policy.
Barrow said the intention had been to be certain the district’s finances could support a salary increase that would be sustainable.
“At this point, we feel based on our financials that we’re in a position that we can do that,” Barrow said.
The board had already given staff a 1.5% salary increase in this year’s budget and restored the system to a full calendar, eliminating furlough days.
Barrow said continuing to stay competitive with employee pay is “critically important” for the district.
“Fayette County has had a history of having the very best folks. This will help us be able to go out, recruit, and retain [quality teachers],” Barrow said.
Barrow said the increase is slated to go into effect Jan. 1 and would not be made retroactive to the start of this school year. Gray has said the salary increase would cost around $1.2 million over a full year.
Board Member Barry Marchman said he would like to see the board continue to monitor its finances and look to increase salaries even more, if possible.
“I’m not sure if we’re competitive yet with the rest of the metro Atlanta area. I’d like to continue to monitor the budget and we can try to get more and more competitive. I think this may even be too conservative,” he said.
Barrow agreed that he and Gray had been careful to be conservative, and were giving each other “pats on the back” for proposing a 1-percent increase.
“We do want to be conservative and make sure we don’t do the yo-yo thing. We do think this is sustainable under the current structure,” Barrow said.
“I think everyone would agree that the most important thing we could do is put a highly qualified, highly effective teacher in every classroom,” said Board Member Dan Colwell. “In order to do so, we’ve got to compensate them accordingly. This is a step in the right direction and hopefully we can see more of this in next year’s budget.”
Board Member Bob Todd, participating in his final meeting before retiring from the board, said there needs to be a continued “focus on keeping pay competitive.”
Board Chair Marion Key said, for clarification, that the 1-percent increase is to each staff member’s total current salary.