RSS faculty to get June bonus, staff-wide retention bonuses approved for October

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education approved appropriating millions for new staff bonuses from state and federal money on Monday.

The first round of bonuses will go to faculty only in their June paychecks in the form of a supplement from the state. The state awarded RSS $1.39 million as part of a fund to boost faculty pay for poor counties.

Chief Human Resources Officer Jill Hall-Freeman said the money is intended for certified teaching and instructional support employees.

Faculty will get about $825 each and the district put in $64,000 of its local funding to pay the same amount to Pre-K teachers and assistant principals on the district’s administrator salary schedule. Those employees are eligible for a bonus according to the state, but it did not provide the money to pay their bonuses.

Hall-Freeman said the state money will pay for some assistant principals who are paid based on the teacher salary scale. The money will be subject to taxes and retirement withholding.

She said if the supplemental funds continue, the district can explore ways to use the money strategically like hiring in-demand exceptional children and math teachers.

“This year, we did get the funding later, so we’re recommending an even distribution for all certified employees,” Hall-Freeman said.

In October, the district will also pay out bonuses for all employees who received the $2,000 staff-wide retention bonuses paid out in December. Those bonuses were approved in November and funded through federal COVID-19 relief money and cost $6.4 million. The October bonuses will cost about $4.9 million, also paid out of federal relief money.

The latest round of bonuses are $2,000 apiece as well, but prorated for part-time employees. For example: someone who works half-time for the district will be paid $1,000.

Board Chair Dean Hunter said what is different about this bonus is the number of employees and the prorates.

Interim Finance Director Pamela York said the reason for the decrease in cost is because the bonuses will apply to fewer people. The $4.9 million figure was calculated based on everyone the district employs right now, so it could decrease by October.

The bonus is intended only for employees who were employed in December and will stay employed through October with no interruptions. The board is now allowed to provide up to $5,000 in retention bonuses for staff from federal money, including the $2,000 bonuses sent out in December.

RSS Director of Federal Programs Jerri Hunt said the bonuses must be for retention.

The district already spent or earmarked all but $1.1 million from the $45.8 million pot of money being used for the bonus and the remaining $3.8 million needed to fund the bonus will be taken from funds originally earmarked for school HVAC upgrades. Before this bonus was approved 65% of the that money was earmarked for HVAC.

The district is required to spend 20% of the money on curriculum and instruction and the air upgrades are the only pot of federal money left to move money from.

Board member Kevin Jones asked why the bonus was brought up now rather than later in the year.

“It may offer a little added incentive for people to stay here, since it’s a retention bonus,” Hunter replied.

He said having the discussion now speaks to the bonus being intended for retention rather than a general bonus.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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