After Circuitous Debate, Board OK’s Employee Bonuses

RIDGEWAY – The Fairfield County School Board voted 4-2 during their Dec. 16 meeting at Geiger Elementary School to give a $60 Wal-Mart gift card to all of the District’s full-time employees, but not before the motion, which was put on the floor by Board member William Frick (District 6) survived several amendments and the discussion veered off into matters of finance and salaries.

Dr. J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools, told the Board that his staff had “identified some savings in the budget,” in order to afford the one-time bonus and would “not have to go into the fund balance to make that happen.”

But Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4) said $60 was not enough, while pressing Green to explain how he had arrived at the $60 figure.

“We just did your evaluation, and what was the amount some Board members thought you so graciously earned? Five percent?” McDaniel asked Green. “We’re giving you all of that but you could only find in the budget, and we put $1.5 million back into the budget, $60 for our employees?”

Green repeated that his staff had identified savings in the budget, and added, “We felt that was a reasonable amount.”

“My question was how did you come up with $60?” McDaniel asked.

“I just answered your question,” Green said.

When McDaniel repeated her question once more, Green said, “I guess I don’t understand the question,” and told McDaniel she could amend the motion if she wished.

But McDaniel said she could not amend the motion without knowing how much money was available in the budget.

“The budget is available for you,” Frick told McDaniel, “and it shows you how much we’ve spent. It’s there for you to see, Ms. McDaniel. It’s on BoardDocs (the web-based program utilized by the Board for sharing information).”

When Board member Andrea Harrison (District 1) clarified McDaniel’s question, asking where specifically in the budget those savings were, Green said the biggest reduction had come in legal fees.

McDaniel then amended Frick’s motion to give all hourly employees a $250 bonus, while maintaining $60 for all other employees. Board member Henry Miller (District 2) said he could not support separating out the hourly employees from everyone else and asked why the Board wouldn’t just make the bonus $250 for everyone. Paula Hartman (District 2), meanwhile, reminded the Board that the District had only recently given raises to hourly employees.

When Green noted that McDaniel’s motion left out teachers, McDaniel amended her motion again to provide them with $250 as well.

“I know we have the money to do what the original ($60) proposal was,” Frick said to McDaniel, “but what you’re asking us to do is to commit to money that we have no idea if we have.”

Chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) then pointed out that the proposal had gone from a cost of $36,000 to the District under the $60 proposal to a cost of about $150,000 under McDaniel’s amendment. Undeterred, McDaniel then amended her motion once more to provide $250 to all District employees. But just as suddenly, McDaniel reverted back to her motion for $250 for teachers and hourly employees and $60 for everyone else.

The motion failed to carry, with only McDaniel voting in the affirmative.

Frick’s original motion then came back to the floor and passed 4-2. McDaniel and Hartman voted against the $60 bonus, while Harrison offered no vote at all.

“These are things that should be planned at the beginning of the year and not done sporadically,” Harrison said after the vote.