BROOKSVILLE — Four out of five School Board members agreed Tuesday that Hernando County administrators deserve a raise this year.
But at least 16 principals and other senior officials are saying just the opposite, that hard times are not the time for senior staff to be taking extra public money.
In a petition that began circulating at a principals' meeting last month, administrators told superintendent Wayne Alexander that they would rather do without a raise than see teachers or staff laid off.
"Due to the current state of our economy, and the fact that we have already been notified there will be further reductions in our district budget for the 09-10 school year, we the undersigned refuse any raise in the hope that this may eliminate or reduce the need to cut staff," the petition said.
Among those who signed are principals Dennis McGeehan, Margaret "Tizzy" Schoelles, Joe Clifford, Jean Ferris, Sue Stoops, Marvin Gordon and Mary LeDoux. Also signing were central office administrators Dave Schoelles, Jim Knight, Sonya Jackson and Cathy Dofka.
Officials said assistant principals and other central office staff didn't attend the principals' meeting, and some have since added their names to the petition.
Board members did not mention the initiative at a Tuesday workshop, and most backed Alexander's call to give administrators and professional or technical staff a 1.8 percent raise. The board previously approved a 1.5 percent boost to offset health care premium increases.
"A $94,000 (total) increase for 71 administrators doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot of money," Alexander said, putting the raises in the context of the $160-million operating budget.
Members John Sweeney, Pat Fagan, Sandra Nicholson and James Yant agreed.
"Six hundred dollars on average per person is not a lot," said Sweeney, whose wife works as an assistant principal at Explorer K-8. "But it shows symbolically that we think a good job has been done."
Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield voiced the only opposition, calling for a wage freeze on all administrators earning more than $60,000 a year.
"It might not have much effect per administrator, but we could be looking at saving a couple of jobs by not having administrative salary increases," she said.
A vote on the raises will be on the agenda at a future board meeting.
Alexander, whom the board granted a 5.5 percent raise last spring, later acknowledged receiving the petition from administrators. He recommended they take the money they have earned, before cutbacks make future raises impossible.
"It was a nice gesture," he said. "But this (raise) has been budgeted. Let's take advantage of it."
By next fall, state budget cutbacks will likely force the district to trim 10 to 15 percent from an ever-shrinking budget. Alexander said he will have cut $36-million in his first two years on the job.
"It's a point of pride that we've been able to keep people employed," he added. "I don't know how long we can hold that line."