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Nash school board weighs teacher pay cuts

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ROCKY MOUNT — Teachers in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools may be seeing less money in their paychecks for the rest of the school year.

The Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools finance committee met Thursday afternoon and approved a recommendation that would slash 35 percent of supplement pay from certified staff, including teachers and administrators, from now till the end of the fiscal year. The measure will have to be approved by the full school board before it takes effect. That meeting is scheduled for April 1, but a special called meeting may take place before then to take the measure under consideration.

The move is necessary in order to avoid the reduction in force proposed last fall to balance this year’s school budget. At that time, the school board was considering a reduction in force of 13 full-time positions, including five positions from the technology department, two media specialists, three guidance counselors and three social workers in order to save $1.4 million. But that plan was met with widespread opposition from the community.

“We have been on this journey for more than a year to try to reconcile this challenge,” said Shelton Jefferies, superintendent of the school district. “In October, we presented some hard and bad options. Now we present even more challenging options. The overarching goal is to honor the school board’s commitment to no reductions in force, especially at this time of year.”

Jefferies said Thursday that cutting teacher supplements is allowed by state law and seems the only way left to balance the budget for this year. If the school district does not balance its budget, it is in danger of having state representatives come in to balance it in ways that may have an even greater impact, Jefferies said.

Members of the finance committee also seemed reluctant to approve the measure but agreed that there seems to be no other option at this time.

“If we get a windfall by the end of the fiscal year, we will make it a priority to pay these teachers back,” said school board member Richard Jenkins.

All other members of the finance committee agreed.

The average supplement for 10-month employees, which include most teachers, is $500 a month. Under the terms of the local supplement reduction recommended by the finance committee, these employees would receive an average of $175 a month less in their paychecks for the months of March through May if the measure is approved by the school board.

The average supplement for 12-month employees, which includes many of the administrative staff including the school superintendent, is $750 a month. The average monthly reduction to these paychecks would $262.50 for May through June, if approved.

The total savings from this reduction in supplement pay from now till the end of the year would be about $795,000, Jefferies said.

Supplement money comes from local funds supplied by Nash County commissioners, Edgecombe County commissioners and the city of Rocky Mount. Most of the local funding comes from Nash County and has for the past few years come mainly in the form of supplement money for teachers and administrators.

Robbie Davis, chairman of the Nash County Board of Commissioners, said he received a “tremendous number” of phone calls from teachers and their families on Thursday night after the finance committee meeting.

“The Board of Commissioners has been very emphatic that when we allot money for teacher supplements, we expect it to be spent for teacher supplements,” Davis said. “But legally, when we give money to the school district, other than capital funds, they can use it any way they want to.”

Davis said he has concerns about the finance committee’s proposal.

“Over past three budget cycles, we have only felt comfortable providing funding through teacher supplements because we felt it would go directly to the teachers. We feel there are items that can be cut from other parts of the school district budget,” Davis said. “I think I can say that the Nash County Board of Commissioners will feel very concerned if that supplement money is used in any other way than the way we intended.”

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