Employees of the DeKalb County school system will see a two percent bonus as a pay raise this year.
School board members voted 6-1 at Thursday night’s regular meeting to adopt a budget amendment allocating $276,000 in available state funds to cover the bonuses. Teachers and certified staff members will get a $700 bonus, while non-certified workers will receive $250. Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson cast the lone dissenting vote.
According to School Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, the plan to offer bonuses rather than pay raises will prevent potential problems if the state funds are not available in the future, as well as ensuring that no local tax money will be used to fund the raises.
"Every penny that came in from the state has gone into this. There is no extra money to go into any other category. We're not going to do that. Instead of a straight pay raise, we're giving a bonus. If we were to put this in the form of a pay raise and next year our ADM (Average Daily Student Membership) were to go down and the state were to decide that we should get less money we would have to take a pay cut," said Evins.
In 2013, Governor Bill promised to raise the salaries of teachers so that by the time he leaves office their salaries will have grown by more than teacher salaries in any other state. Officials are suspicious that the state funds to help with teacher’s pay increases may not be reliably available in the future because Haslam promised teachers and state employees a pay raise in early 2014, but announced soon afterward that the pay hikes would have to wait at least another year. Haslam told the Associated Press that a decline in state revenues had created a $160 million deficit in the new fiscal year.
The governor promised a four percent pay raise for teachers in January 2015, and the legislature approved almost $98 million in the state’s 2015-16 budget for raises for educators.
The Tennessee Board of Education approved a salary schedule last summer which was meant to increase annual pay for the state’s teachers by almost $1,000, but did the move apparently still did not allow for the promised four percent raise.
Department of Education officials stressed that the state funding should be used as funding for teacher compensation, but local school districts could decide exactly how the funds are distributed.