CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Despite some concerns about an uncertain economy, higher health care costs and subpar facilities, Hamilton County School Board members approved a pay raise and one-time bonus for school district employees Thursday.
The vote was 7-2, with Dr. Jonathan Welch and Rhonda Thurman casting the only opposing votes.
Some Board members had been touting the idea in recent weeks after catching flak for approving a $25,000 pay increase for Superintendent Rick Smith. Under terms of the teachers contract agreement, all full-time employees will receive the raise and bonus, including principals, central office administrators, and Superintendent Smith.
The school district has recently cited savings in its $393 million annual budget. Administrators cite a $1 million reduction in utility costs and a lower payroll after the retirement of veteran teachers, who had earned more than first-year teachers. The pay raise, described as three percent "across the board," will be combined with a one-time bonus of one percent. The details of the raise are still to be worked out, but Board members say it will cover virtually all full-time employees, both certified and classified. Pay rates for substitute teachers will increase as well.
Dr. Welch's objections centered around the unpredictable nature of upcoming health insurance changes, while Mrs. Thurman said she didn't understand how the district suddenly had "plenty of money to hand out while Sale Creek School in my district, still needs bathrooms."
The raise for school employees is retroactive to July 1, 2013.
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