Board member David Banks proposed the idea after hearing complaints from teachers and administrators about the five furlough days the district implemented this year as a money-saving measure.
“We’re eliminating teachers and putting more burdens on them,” he said.
Fellow board members said a pay bonus wouldn’t necessarily help to alleviate future problems for district staff, especially with the estimated $79 million budget shortfall in this year’s budget of nearly $1 billion.
How it would work
Cobb County School District employs 13,526 people and is the second largest employer in the county, according to the district’s website. Only Home Depot employs more with roughly 20,000.
Banks proposed granting employees a “holiday” bonus, starting as soon as possible, and at the latest by Dec. 25.
He said he would take the roughly $7 million required for the 1 percent bonus from the district’s reserve fund, which Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn said had about $75 million in it.
Brad Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer, said each furlough day saves the district about $3 million, and the five furlough days this school year saved about $15 million.
District employees took a 2 percent pay cut five years ago, Johnson said, and have not been given a raise since then.
“It’s not very good times,” said board member Brad Wheeler, of the district’s financial situation. He would rather see the money spent toward reducing furlough days and next year’s proposed budget shortfall down from $80 million, he said.
“We want to keep the schools open as many days that we can and keep the teachers going,” he added.
Board members cite budget limitations
Other board members agreed, and were wary of dispensing such a large chunk of money when the financial future of the district was in flux.
“Seven million is a lot of money and can be used to lower class sizes, although the teachers deserve it and need it,” said Scamihorn.
Board member Kathleen Angelucci agreed, and felt teachers would benefit more from saving the $7 million for next year’s budget.
“It is a noble proposal, but I think teachers would rather have lower class sizes at this point than the bonus,” said Angelucci.
What teachers want
Teachers would prefer the board to focus on reducing furlough days instead of dispensing a one-time bonus, said Connie Jackson, the president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, a teacher advocacy group.
“While we appreciate the thought and sentiment, when we are facing a $79 million deficit next year, we would rather see more work done on that that would decrease furlough days,” she said.
Teachers feel their take-home salaries have dwindled each year for the past five years, Jackson said, because of furlough days and the 2 percent pay cut, but at the end of the day, they would rather have more teaching days than a one-time bonus.
“It seems like our salary and our workload are inversely proportional,” Jackson said.
Still, Banks stood his ground.
He had intended to give the district’s single working parents the chance to make it through the holidays, and to make up for this year’s furloughed days, he said.
“When you take furlough days from them, you are taking food off the table,” Banks said. “Five days with no pay is five days without food.”
Not one board member seconded Bank’s request to include a vote on the pay bonus on the next board meeting on Dec. 11, and the proposal was dismissed.
Banks said he was disappointed, but did not plan on bringing up the idea of a pay bonus back up again.
“If they don’t want to do something for the employees, then they have no interest in the employees,” he said.