School board abandons teacher pay cut plan
BY AMELIA HARPER
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
NASHVILLE — There was standing room only Monday at the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education meeting as dozens of teachers and their families flocked in to make their feelings known about a proposed 35 percent supplement pay cut.
A proposal by the finance committee of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools on March 19 to cut teacher supplement pay in an effort to balance the budget for the current year has been met with widespread opposition by teachers and members of the community over the past two weeks.
At the recommendation of Shelton Jefferies, superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, that proposal was formally removed from consideration. The school board unanimously approved the recommendation to ditch efforts to cut teacher pay to the applause of some in the audience.
However, the issue of where the nearly $800,000 budget shortfall will be made up has not been decided.
Last Tuesday at the Nash County budget retreat, Nash County commissioners heard a request from Jefferies for an $800,000 advance from county commissioners to balance this year’s budget and avert the payroll crisis. Commissioners offered to advance the money if certain stipulations were met:
■ The $800,000 advance will be paid back in next year’s funding cycle.
■ A financial audit and an audit of school board personnel be performed and the current fund balance in each of the school district accounts be presented to both boards.
■ A spending freeze will be placed on the local budget for the current funding year.
■ The threat of reducing teacher pay will not be used in any future budget shortfall situation.
■ The Board of Education will expedite the construction of a new elementary school to protect already obtained grant funds. A timeline for this process was detailed by commissioners.
But Jefferies said he had concerns about several of the conditions and recommended that the school board table the loan and try to renegotiate the terms with county commissioners before voting on the issue. After some discussion, school board members voted unanimously to support that motion.
“Andrew Cox, budget manager for state Department of Public Instruction told me that the responsibility of reconciling the budget rests with the county commissioners,” Jefferies told the school board.
Jefferies said that Cox said that other school districts that had such advances from county boards were usually allowed to repay the loan over several years. He said he also had other concerns about the stipulations from the county.
“One of my concerns is in the area of what a spending freeze would mean,” Jefferies said. “And I am concerned about the stipulation regarding teacher pay because that would force a binding decision on future boards.”
Jefferies said another concern is the timeline imposed on school construction and how that would affect the efforts at community engagement to which the school board had committed.
School board member Ricky Jenkins said he is comfortable with the terms of the loan.
“Anytime anyone is advancing us $800,000, terms like this are not that strenuous,” Jenkins said. “And I really think it is important that the teachers get what they deserve.”
School board member Evelyn Bulluck said she feels school board members need to do their due diligence and examine the issues more closely before voting to accept the loan.
“We can always hold a special called meeting if you want to,” Bulluck said. “However, I do agree that the audits are necessary. In fact, I think we need to look back at the past 10 years to see exactly how we got into this situation.”
Most school board members agreed that an audit is a reasonable request.