By Rachel Atwood
A decision by the Park Hill Board of Education to approve a salary increase for teachers, custodians, administrators and assistant superintendents generated debate between Superintendent Dr. Dennis Fisher, board members, and a local citizen on Thursday.
Community resident, Larry Womack, set the tone for the school board meeting as the first to voice his objection to pay raises. Womack pointed to the slow economy and said, “I wouldn’t want to be on the board and vote for that.”
“We have to be realistic about what’s going on. It’s not about deserving a raise, it’s about reality.” Womack told the board.
Todd Fane, who was elected to the school board last year, also expressed concern that approving the raises would force the district to pass a proposed $0.02 to $0.04 tax levy increase to cover an estimated $520,000 shortfall―despite the “no-tax increase” bond ballot measure promised to voters during the April 5 election.
“I think the timing is off,” said Fane.
Dr. Fisher assured the board that the two issues could be mutually exclusive by examining alternatives to a tax levy increase.
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Technology, Dr. Paul Kelly, who had told The Luminary last week that he had not explored additional expenditure reduction strategies,
offered suggestions at Thursday’s meeting to reduce the budget gap such as making additional cuts or using the district’s fund balance.
Other members had hesitations, including David Cox who suggested a renegotiation of the salary agreement to exclude the 2.49 percent raise for administrators. “Sit back and look at administration salary increases. Just because you’ve been doing something for 30 years doesn’t mean it’s right,” Cox said.
Newly elected board member, Richard Turley, also expressed his preference to not vote on pay raises as a package, asking instead for the board to consider each work group separately.
Dr. Fisher deemed the proposal to reject administrators pay increases as “disrespectful” and board member, Janice Bolin cautioned against selective salary increases.
Pay raises will range from 0.69 percent to 5.47 percent, with teachers receiving 3.08 percent increase. There are currently 47 administrators receiving a combined salary of $4,764,878. By comparison, 739 teachers receive $43,311,563.
Denise Schnell, Janice Bolin, Boon Lee, Todd Fane, and Susan Newberger voted in favor of the measure. Members voting against the pay increases were Richard Turley and David Cox.