Sometimes Pay Raises Later Cost Jobs
By Alex Saitta
September 17, 2010
Elected officials often have short memories. Unfortunately, decisions made in the past (for better or worse), yield the situation you face in the present.
In 2006 Pickens County School District employees were scheduled to get a 4.6% raise (2.6% cost of living raise plus a 2% step increase). The board voted to give employees an additional 2.5% raise on top of that. I voted against the additional 2.5% raise (or the 7.1% raise in total). One reason is I felt the economic recovery was long in the tooth, and if a recession hit, the extra burden would put pressure on the annual budget.
Providing all employees with that raise and then having to maintain it each year, cost an extra $1.2 million each and every year going forward.
Now that revenue has fallen we can see the unintended consequences of that extra pay raise.
Last year the school board voted to eliminate 28 classroom teachers. (Both Kevin Kay and I voted against that measure.) This has resulted in larger class sizes, having to teach more classes, less course offerings and all this will hurt our academic results in the long run. For example, I spoke to one teacher and she said her total number of students has risen from 100 to about 150. When I asked how that has changed things she said in the past I gave tests that required more essay answers. Now she gives more multiple choice tests. With that many students and grades having to be into the system ASAP, such changes need to be made.
If the board never voted to give the additional 2.5% pay raise, there would have been an extra $1.2 million at the districtís disposal each year and 24 of those 28 classroom teaching positions would have never had to be eliminated.
Looking ahead, it looks like the district is facing a $5.3 million cut in federal revenue. When it comes to personnel, there is a debate to either reduce salaries or eliminate positions. Myself, Iíd rather reduce salaries a bit, protect jobs, keep class sizes small and course offerings high.
For example, last year I proposed reducing administrative salaries by 10% in order to restore 12 to 15 of those teaching positions that were cut in the budget. It failed 7 to 1. I was the only one who voted for it. Next year the board is going to have to relook at that idea, among many other ideas were non-classroom expenditures are focused on and reduced.