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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Vote Against A Salary Increase?

Why did I vote against a salary increase for Administrators and Support Staff? That's what my liberal friends are asking - my conservative friends wanted me to say we should give the money back to the tax payer. In the end, I made both of them unhappy.

For the record, I went against the school district recommendation and my fellow 6 board members. I am not complaining about their actions - they made a decision based on some information and opinions and I made a different decision. I can't say one is better than the other, they are different.

The administration proposed two ways to spend the excess money from the 2010-11 school year. Option 1 was to give a 1.5% salary increase to Administrators and Support Staff and $500 to anyone else who didn't get a step increase in September (a step is an adjustment in salary for teachers based on obtaining another year of experience. It is not given to all years of experience and varies from about 2.5% to 1%, with the more senior years getting a smaller amount). Option 2 was to give all employees who did not get a step increase a  one time $500 bonus, an option that I supported.

I'm probably  not the most qualified to make the argument for voting for the increase, but I believe the biggest driver was equity. Most teachers got a step increase in September and this was an attempt to treat all employees equally.  Another reason given was to stay competitive with area schools.

Let me address the business climate. Unemployment is still high, businesses are struggling to pay taxes and many are  furloughing employees and the employees have taken permanent salary reductions with little hope of  recovering. These are the same people paying taxes to support our schools.

Then there is the budgeting process. The excess funds may not be recurring. A recurring salary increase will put pressure on  next years budget process. Since I've been on the board, we have never given a cost of living increase that was not funded by the state - and this one is not funded. Utility costs are going up this year from the city and Duke Energy. We know we cannot fund our yearly technology and maintenance improvements at the same level as previous years without a tax increase.

But this is no different than a step increase in the budgeting process! A true statement, and an apparent contradiction in my position. A lot has been made of staying competitive with surrounding districts to retain employees. I understand The Herald has obtained all the salaries of anyone making above $50,000 (by freedom of information - this is public record) and they are probably the only one in the area who know if our salaries are competitive. All I have to go on is the following public information:
The above chart comes from data on the South Carolina School District Report Card and shows the Rock Hill School District Administration Salary compared to district's similar to ours. It shows  the Rock Hill School District Administrators, although lower in comparison to a few years ago, still make more money than administrators of districts similar to ours. Our administrators, much like those in districts similar to ours, did not had a salary increase in 2010 and 2009 and only a limited increase in 2008.

Additionally, the published administrative salary scale that each school district has on their web site shows the Rock Hill School District scale to be higher than the average of the other three school districts in the county. So, while I'm sure we have come down, we appear to still be competitive. Let me point out that this doesn't mean we don't have problems. There may be some positions  we need to elevate. My research shows Assistant Principals at the high school level may be one of those.

The published teacher salary scale on district web sites, even after the step increase, shows Rock Hill Teachers to be underpaid compared to the average of the other three districts in York County - with the most senior teachers underpaid the most.

We have not lost one administrator to a surrounding district for pay but have lost many teachers. Every education expert will tell you the most critical position for engagement and learning is the classroom teacher. At the end of the day, what you pay for is what you value the most. When money is tight, that is exponentially more significant.

The last few years have been tough on employees. We should give all of them something for the way they have worked together to keep learning a major focus. The board is in agreement with that. My vote against the yearly salary increase is not a reflection or lack of admiration for the work those employees perform. Sometimes you have to go with the data instead of the heart. Only time will tell. I hope I am wrong.

1 comment:

Will said...

Next time put labels on those axes.

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