SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday approved millions of dollars for new staff bonuses from state and federal sources.
The first round of bonuses will go to teachers only in their June paychecks in the form of a state supplement. The state gave RSS $1.39 million as part of a fund to increase teacher compensation in poor counties.
Human Resources Director Jill Hall-Freeman said the money was for certified teaching and educational support employees.
Teachers will receive about $825 each, and the district invested $64,000 of its local funding to pay the same amount to pre-K teachers and vice-principals on the district administrator pay scale. These employees are eligible for a bonus according to the state, but it has not provided the money to pay their bonuses.
Hall-Freeman said state money will pay for some vice principals who are paid on the teacher pay scale. The money will be subject to taxes and pension withholding.
She said if the additional funds continue, the district can explore ways to use the money strategically, such as hiring exceptional kids and in-demand math teachers.
“This year we got the funding later, so we recommend an equal split for all certified employees,” Hall-Freeman said.
In October, the district will also pay bonuses to all employees who received the $2,000 in staff-wide retention bonuses paid in December. Those bonuses were approved in November and funded by federal COVID-19 relief money and cost $6.4 million. The October bonuses will cost about $4.9 million, also paid from federal relief funds.
The final round of bonuses are also $2,000 each, but pro-rated for part-time employees. For example: someone who works part-time for the district will be paid $1,000.
Board chairman Dean Hunter said what’s different about this bonus is the number of employees and the prorations.
Acting chief financial officer Pamela York said the reason for the lower costs is that the bonuses will apply to fewer people. The $4.9 million figure was calculated based on everyone the district currently employs, so it could drop by October.
The bonus is intended only for employees who were employed in December and who will remain employed until October without interruption. The board is now authorized to provide up to $5,000 in retention bonuses to staff from federal money, including the $2,000 bonuses sent in December.
RSS Director of Federal Programs Jerri Hunt said the bonuses should be for retention.
The district has already spent or appropriated all but $1.1 million of the $45.8 million pot used for the bonus and the remaining $3.8 million needed to fund the bonus will be taken from funds originally reserved for school HVAC upgrades. Prior to the approval of this bonus, 65% of this money was for HVAC.
The district is required to spend 20% of the money on the program and instruction and air upgrades are the only pot of federal money left to move money.
Board member Kevin Jones asked why the premium had been increased now rather than later in the year.
“It may provide a little extra incentive for people to stay here, because it’s a retention bonus,” Hunter replied.
He said the discussion now indicates that the bonus is for retention rather than a general bonus.