Included in the computation of the salary increase is the employee’s state salary plus the local supplement, which is a 10 percent increase over the state salary amount and comes out of local tax money, and any supplements the employee may receive for additional responsibilities like a department head or a coach.
The raise is the result of the $900,000 allotment Cartersville City Schools received from the state. Due to the fact that there has been no new salary dollars for education in five years, the governor appropriated money to be used by local systems at their discretion. The Cartersville district administration used the total amount received from the state for the pay increase.
Hinesley said in an interview with The Daily Tribune News on Tuesday, “Rather than put [the money] into the salary schedule there was a statewide debate over what to do with it. The options were: do we put it in the salary schedule or do we give it to the local school systems to make their own choices? Our opinion [in the debate] was it should be given to the local board to make the decision and that’s what they did, which allowed the money to be flexible.
“We are giving that money to our employees. Where you have to be careful is when you put [money] in the salary schedule it is never taken out. We could find no hard evidence that we will get this money again from the state or that this will come back again. Everyone wants it to come back again. The economy’s good and it may, but talking to our local elected officials and the people we know in Atlanta, they said there is a good chance [the money will be released by the state to local school systems] but there is no guarantee. We are being cautious.”
Due to the uncertainty of future salary money, Hinesley said they were reluctant to make the raise annual but instead will release it in a one-time check on Friday, Nov. 21.
“There are two reasons we are giving the total of the raise in a one-time sum,” Hinesley said in the Tuesday interview. “The first is so that they can actually see it; because we pay over a 12-month period the raise would get lost in a monthly check.
“The next reason is the timing. We pay on the last work day of each month and we do not pay early for Thanksgiving. We decided to release the check the Friday before Black Friday and when I announced it to the staff some people stood up and cheered. So we feel it was the right time.”
Other systems throughout the state have not given salary increases with the resource but instead used it to decrease or eliminate furlough days. Cartersville schools have not utilized temporary layoffs since it was state mandated under former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Hinesley said in the earlier interview, “I believe there are several reasons we have not been forced to furlough. We do two things that I think have caused us to be in a reasonably good financial position. One of them is that we do budget parameters in December. The concept is that before you build a budget, you go to the school board and you ask them to vote on parameters to build the budget. For example, we, the school board and myself, believe that art and music are core subjects that should be considered an extremely important part of the curriculum and should not be looked at to cut, whereas a lot of places do look to cut them. We have in our parameters to continue to offer art and music at or above the current level. The parameters are based on the board’s strategic goals and objectives.
“Secondly, we build a three-year budget. We take what our projected cost is going to be over three years and project out based on a five-year enrollment trend. It is adjusted every year and gives us the ability to view long term and maintain our priorities.”
On Tuesday, he referenced a single laminated sheet, which he called the financial dashboard. Listed on the document is historical data outlaying the cuts made to the system’s budget since 2003, the millage rate, the value of a mill, the budget amount, the amount owed in bond debt, enrollment by full-time equivalent, the impact of the Freeport Tax and the local and state revenue.
“I had this at my previous school system and we had a $1.2 billion budget all listed on one page. This is valuable because when a constituent calls one of the board members they can reference this quickly and it has helped us have an overall perspective.
“The board understands they are the custodians of other people’s money and those people expect it to be spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. You can’t do that effectively without a plan, and in my judgement it should be at least a three-year plan.”
Bartow County School System was among the systems that appropriated the money to decrease furlough days from seven to five last year and to return to a 180-day academic calendar.
Dr. Davis Nelson, chair of the Bartow County Board of Education, said, “We will be watching closely to see where the millage increase puts us financially — also, to see if there will be any other funding increases from the state, which has cut education funding tremendously and only given that one-time amount, which happened to come on an election year.
“It took $800,000 to $1 million for our large system to eliminate the two furlough days; it is our goal to eliminate all furlough days for the 2015-16 school year. We take these furlough days very seriously and are feeling the sting of losing good teachers to other systems.”