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Stafford School Board holds off on step raises
No step raises in April for Stafford schools


Date published: 3/24/2010

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Stafford County teachers and other school employees will not receive step raises on April 1, as was originally scheduled.

The Stafford School Board voted 5-2 last night to "hold in abeyance" the average 2.5 percent step increases until it has more information on state and local funding relating to the 2010-11 budget.

School Board members Patricia Mancini and Meg Bohmke cast the dissenting votes.

Later in the meeting, however, the School Board approved School Superintendent David Sawyer's recom-mended budget for 2010-11 that includes step raises for all eligible employees but eliminates 31.5 positions--most of which are teachers--through attrition.

In the motion to approve next year's budget, the School Board added a provision that it is "strongly committed to preserving" all instructional positions.

Sawyer recommended that the School Board hold off on the April 1 step increases, which members approved in December.

"If we were to make this decision tonight, I think it would be at a risk of potentially reducing our work force in order to pay for it," said School Board Vice Chairwoman Patricia Healy, who also voted against the step increases in December.

Sawyer did say that the School Board could retroactively implement the raises. The step increases would cost $911,000 from April 1 through June 30 and around $4 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Late last year, the county Board of Supervisors voted to use a little more than $1 million--from a $6.2 million surplus--for bonuses for teachers, paraprofessionals and school nurses.

The School Board in December opted for step increases instead.

Board members said last night that they still intend to use the money for employee pay but don't know whether it will be for step increases or one-time bonuses, among other options.

"I think everybody here is going to fight hard to make sure we deliver as promised, but I think we need additional information," member Ty Schieber said.

Mancini said she didn't understand why the division would put off the raises.

"We either have the will to do this or not," she said. "We can find this money to make this happen."

Bohmke said she wondered how teachers would "have any faith in us if we're holding in abeyance what we've agreed to pay them."

School Board member Doreen Phillips reminded those at the meeting that county supervisors control the purse strings.

"If you want to throw some venom, please go over to the Board of Supervisors," she said. "They are the ones that give us the money."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com