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Though it had hoped to give teachers a 5.8 percent raise next year, the Bedford County School Board will likely cut raises to 4 percent or less next week when it finalizes the school budget.
In a work session last Thursday, the school board debated how to balance the budget numbers it received from the Bedford County Board of Supervisors which came in some $2.1 million less than requested. Much of that difference will likely be saved by cutting the proposed raises.
Discussion last week centered around whether all school employees should get an equal raise, or whether teachers should get a higher percentage in order to help make the county?s pay scale more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions. Currently county teacher pay ranks near the bottom of the pay scale for area localities.
School Superintendent Dr. James Blevins said many surrounding school systems are proposing 2 percent raises this year.
The school board looked at other possible money saving steps as well. The proposed budget had included funding for three testing coordinators, one at each high school, costing a total of $145,000 for the upcoming budget year. School board members discussed cutting that to a part-time position, with the position requiring someone to be in place 82 days per year to help administer the 72 days of testing currently being administered by guidance counselors at the schools.
That could save $80,000.
School board members hope by adding someone to help with testing, guidance counselors will be able to get back to helping students.
The school board also has to decide how much school employees will have to pay to help cover the increased cost of health insurance. The board plans, for the first time, to split the insurance cost increases between the school system and the employee. That plan is expected to cost employees from $14 to $18 per month.
The school system is also eliminating 15 positions next year at the elementary and middle school levels. Blevins said those will be made through attrition and any employees affected are being offered other positions.
?We?ve worked real hard in making sure everybody has a place,? he said.
But during its regular meeting later Thursday several students from Big Island Elementary asked the school board to not take any more positions from that school.
Fifth grader Meg Tomlinson said each school needs at least two classes per grade. ?It is stressful in the classroom,? she said of having all of the students in one class, because of the variety of needs. ?Do not make anyone go through what my class has had to go through.?
Classmate Dakota Carter agreed. ?There are too many personality conflicts in one classroom,? Carter stated, adding the workload is too much for one teacher. ?A happy teacher makes for a happy classroom.?
Fifth grader Ashley Jenkins told the board that the year had been stressful. ?I like to learn, but I have had a hard time with all the distractions.?
The school board had proposed a $110 million budget, requesting $39.9 million from the county. The county approved $37.7 million in local funding for schools, some $850,000 more than the current budget.
The school board hopes to finalize its budget during a work session April 24 and adopt the amended version during the regularly scheduled meeting that evening.