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Board tentatively approves pay raises

By Greg Gelpi

All Clayton County school system employees will get a 2 percent pay raise without the need to raise taxes, according to a tentative budget adopted by the Clayton County Board of Education.

The option, one of five presented to the school board, passes on the 2 percent raise approved by the Georgia General Assembly for teachers, as well as awarding the 2 percent raise to all other school system employees.

Clayton County schools Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald explained that the state gives about $9 million to fund the teacher pay raise, but there is a net loss of $1 million because of state austerity reductions of more than $10 million.

The board approved the tentative budget option 7-1-1 with board member Connie Kitchens voting against and board member Lois Baines Hunter abstaining.

Kitchens explained her vote, saying that there is a disparity in teacher pay between Clayton and other metro Atlanta counties. She wants the school system to look at other options to increase teacher pay more than the 2 percent with keeping taxes as is.

One of the options, Option Four, would have given teachers another 1 percent, but would have also raised the millage rate by a half mill.

That option was backed by the Clayton County Education Association.

"We believe teachers deserve every cent they can get," Clayton County Education Association President Sid Chapman told the school board.

Chapman said that there has been an "exodus of educators" in the county that could be stopped by listening to them and paying them accordingly.

Clayton County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Dexter Matthews said that all five options had common elements, which need not be included in the budget in light of increasing school violence.

Matthews cited a $500,000 compensation study and $159,000 for a chief operating officer.

"I'm asking that the school system take the gang problem more seriously by adding more money to the budget for security," Matthews said.

The budget option does include a $300,000 item to fund two additional school resource officers, canine support and other school security necessities. It also includes several items to Matthews' disliking.

Significant expenses in all five options include the compensation study, $2.7 million for a state-mandated Georgia Performance Standards roll-out, $750,000 to establish a research and evaluation department, and $2.3 million for the county's first charter school.

In light of recent "significant" pay raises that prompted the school board to approve a moratorium on pay raises, board Chairwoman Ericka Davis wanted to hold off giving staff who received those raises the proposed new raise.

McDugald said the savings would be $22,000. Davis' proposal was not part of the budget tentatively approved.

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam and the school board's citizens advisory committee recommended the option tentatively adopted by the board.

All of the options considered call for saving the school system $4.3 million by cutting the instructional technology specialist position at each of the county's 55 schools.

The instructional technology specialists would be given the option of taking positions as classroom teachers.

Significant savings in all five options include more than $270,000 by eliminating six central office secretaries, about $213,000 by eliminating two coordinators in Teaching and Learning, $5 million by more effectively using Title VIB funds, and $2.1 million by using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to cover laptop lease payments.

Other positions that would be cut by all five options are a custodian, two paraprofessionals in maintenance, a part-time position in Teaching and Learning and one training specialist.

Many of the positions offered up for elimination are currently vacant or soon to be vacated by retirements.

The short-term goal is a balanced budget, McDugald said. The long-term goal is to set aside $28 million in reserves.

The budget process comes in the wake of the school system suffering a combined $41.8 million in state funding cuts from the past five years.

The tentative budget is scheduled to be discussed during public hearings at 7 p.m. May 16 and May 23.

The final budget is tentatively slated to be adopted in June.