Nelson County Schools: Employee salary rate likely flat for next year

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Possible raise depends on tax rate, which the board will decide in August

By Jennifer Corbett

School board members say they would like to increase employee pay, but until they settle on a tax rate for next year, it doesn’t look likely.

In the current fiscal climate, Nelson County Schools Chief Operating Officer Tim Hockensmith said, he doesn’t think the district could financially sustain a salary schedule increase.

“I do look forward to the day we can recommend a raise,” Hockensmith said when he presented a salary schedule for fiscal 2014 at Tuesday’s board meeting. But “I don’t think (Nelson County Schools) is in a position to do that.”

Under the new salary schedule for fiscal 2014, all salaries for Nelson County Schools employees would remain as is, which Hockensmith said has been the norm for a number of years.

However, even though the schedule will remain the same, employees will still receive step increases in pay based on their years of service. For instance, a rank III teacher with four years of experience earned $40,075 during the 2012-2013 school year. That same teacher next year would earn $40,411, thanks to a step increase.

Board members agreed that employees should receive a raise, but under the current tentative budget, the district cannot afford a raise without raising its tax rate. They agreed to approve the salary schedule during Tuesday’s meeting, but they left room to change their minds once they settle on the district’s tax rate in August.

The last time Nelson County Schools increased its salary schedule was around five years ago when the district was mandated to give everyone a 1 percent raise, according to Superintendent Anthony Orr.

“Obviously we want to give our employees more than what they make now,” Orr said.

The district’s tentative budget, which was approved last month, leans toward a tax-compensating rate for fiscal 2014.

The “compensating rate” is the rate at which, when applied to the current year’s assessment of the property subject to taxation by a taxing district, excluding new property and personal property, produces an amount of revenue approximately equal to that produced in the preceding year.

The district expects to receive the final property value assessment in August from Nelson County Property Valuation Administrator Barbara Tichenor. Once that assessment is confirmed by the state, the school board has 30 days to set a final tax rate.

Orr noted there have been times the district has not received a property value assessment until September.

The final version of the budget will be approved in September.

During Tuesday’s meeting, board members discussed all options, but kept leaning toward a possible tax revenue increase.

“We either do nothing and keep the contingency and budget as is,” said board member Damon Jackey. “Or second scenario is we find something to cut somewhere. We’ve been doing that for several years now. We’ve been trimming fat … I don’t even consider that fat to begin with, it’s meat we’ve trimmed off. Or we identify that there is going to be a raise of some sort, which means we have to address it through a revenue increase.”

“We need to look at something to do for all employees,” added board member Nicky Rapier. “At this time, until we know everything, I’ll make a motion, reluctantly, that we approve this salary schedule.”

Board members unanimously agreed to pass the salary schedule as is.

“We’ve got to be judicious with the funds we’ve got available to us, but at the same time we’ve got to figure out how to be creative and recognize the hard work our staff does,” Jackey said.