BOE approves FY15 budget

JONESBORO — A splintered Clayton County Board of Education has adopted its fiscal year 2015 budget, which includes pay raises and bonuses for school employees.

The board voted 5-2, with one abstention and one absence during Monday’s work session. It will manage budgets totaling $530.95 million, which accounts for general operations, capital projects, enterprise expenses and other special revenues.

Vice Chairwoman Dr. Alieka Anderson moved to adopt the budget, and Mary Baker seconded the motion.

Jessie Goree interjected prior to the official vote. She asked about restoring some funds to the nonprofit Arts Clayton, a request she made before the tentative budget was adopted at a previous meeting.

Arts Clayton, founded in 1986, provides year-round education programs and arts enrichment to area youth.

Goree said the organization has provided services loyally to supplement the district’s mission in recent years without financial contribution from the board.

Superintendent Luvenia Jackson, who recommended the budget, answered Goree’s request saying funding was still under consideration.

Goree responded by abstaining in the vote for the district’s FY15 budget, and said her vote was “still under consideration.”

Chairwoman Dr. Pam Adamson, Mary Baker, Judy Johnson, Ophelia Burroughs and Anderson all voted to approve the budget.

Michael King and Charlton Bivins voted in opposition. Mark Christmas was not present.

Bivins prefaced his vote restating his preference to combine pay raises with adding student instruction days to the school calendar.

He said he thought the budget should be a hybrid providing a little for student instruction and teacher pay raises.

“I am just as for additional days being added in,” he said. “Our children need the help. Our children need more class time.”

Jackson gave school board members three budget options to consider based on an anticipated increase in state revenues.

The first of her $399 million general operations budget options would have restored five instructional days to the school calendar, but without pay raises. The second option would have given all employees a 2 percent pay raise and restored three instructional days.

The superintendent’s last option — the option board members approved Monday — calls for a 3 percent pay raise for all employees with a one-time, 1 percent bones to those employed as of July 1.

Chief Financial Officer Ken Thompson said that final option will cost the board about $11 million — $8.4 million for pay raises and $2.6 million for the one-time bonuses.

Bivins disagreed adamantly.

“How can we go purely on these raises with the opportunity to add back days on the school calendar?” Bivins argued. “How can we do that when we have the option to do both? I’m an advocate for the teachers too, but I’m also an advocate for the children.”

Jackson defended the third option, noting it would provide more opportunities for professional development among educators and administrators.

She said the option also helps the district retain its effective teachers who have gone to other districts for lack of pay raises or bonuses in Clayton County.

“We had to make some choices,” said Jackson. “If we had 200 (instructional) days, and we don’t have effective teachers, then we’re not going to get the results that we want.”