County school employees to get 1-percent raise

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Board turns down request for 5-percent salary increase

By Leslie Moore

The Taylor County Board of Education approved a 1-percent raise for certified and classified employees in the 2013-2014 fiscal year at its regular meeting last Tuesday. But according to Shannon H. Cox, representing the Taylor County Education Association, 1 percent is not enough.

A letter from the association, signed by Cox, was recently given to Board members. The letter pra-ised Superintendent Roger Cook’s vision and asked for a 5-percent raise for teachers who have worked hard to carry out that vision.

“We’ve just been in there working, carrying out the vision, and we would just like a raise,” Cox, a teacher at Taylor County Elementary School, said. “In the letter we put 5 percent, but of course, we would love anything that would work out for us.”

Cox said the letter did not include two 1-percent raises the Board approved in 2009 and 2010. She said she apologized for the oversight, but the reason was not because teachers were unappreciative, it was because they simply did not see it.

Increased payroll and health insurance premiums, according to Cox, are why teachers did not see the 1-percent raise make a difference in their paychecks.

“Even though they’re not making less, with everything else, they’re taking home less. And our classified people are as well.”

Cook said the district will absorb the positions of those employees who are retiring, but referenced a recent Kentucky School Boards Association report that shows many districts throughout the state are laying off 30 or more teachers and classified staff.

“I think we’re very, very fortunate that we have not this year had to lay off anybody. Nobody’s losing their jobs due to the budget cuts,” Cook said.

Cook said he agrees with Cox that teachers deserve a 5-percent raise. “She’s right. They work their tails off doing something nobody else in the state or nation does,” Cook said.
“They deserve 10 percent. If you think that if I had it, I wouldn’t give it to ‘em, you’re crazy. They’re 10 percent behind. A thank you is not much. One percent is laughable.”

But, according to Cook, the money simply isn’t there.

“It’s not enough, but [finance officer Marcie Close] will sit here and tell you that 5 percent will be a million dollars out of a budget that’s going to go down to $3.2 [million].”

And once a raise goes into effect, Cook said, it must remain because of mandated salary step increases for teachers, which would be bad news for the district that has experienced fallen revenue in the last five years. Cook said the district hasn’t received any assurances that revenue will increase next year.

“I would jump up and down to give them 5 percent or 10 percent and you can do that, if you want to,” Cook said to the Board. “But there will be mass layoffs. We’ll be able to go maybe two years, and that’s what will be the result unless revenues increase.”

Cook said Close wrote in a 1-percent raise in the budget, but that he would like to look at the possibility of a one-time Christmas bonus.

“If you give me to Christmas, we’ll have a little bit more time to see what sequester is going to do us, have a little bit more time to see how June 30 ends,” Cook said. “I told maintenance, I told transportation, I told everybody, let’s stop the spending. Let’s just get by with the minimal and see if we can make it as good as we can.”

Board Chairman Tony Davis told Cox to “check the facts” the next time she writes a letter to the Board, in reference to the omission of the two 1-percent pay raises that he voted for in 2009 and 2010, which he said cost the district about $400,000.

“You know, we’ve got so much going around these days about rumors and God knows what else,” Davis said. “I believe I’ve had more confusion going on this year than than I have in the last 19.” Later in the meeting, Davis apologized to Cox.

Cook said his vision for the district is “no good” without the support and work of the teachers. He told Cox to research other districts in the state to see if any had given three 1-percent raises in the last four years.

“But we’re not any district in the state, Mr. Cook,” Cox said. “We’re Taylor County.”

For more from Tuesday’s meeting, see the Thursday edition of the News-Journal.