The Hernando School Board majority is treating lower wage, nonunionized employees unfairly. This week, the board voted 3-2 denying raises to 67 workers not affiliated with a bargaining unit, even though the school board approved negotiated raises for the unionized faculty.
The 67 workers, known as confidential employees because of their access to student and employee records, were one of three employee groups denied raises. Withholding salary bumps from highly compensated district-level employees earning up to $97,000 is understandable in light of the district's tough budget year. But, doing likewise for 67 office workers like bookkeepers and secretaries who earn as little as $19,000 is absurd.
School board tightwads Matt Foreman, James Yant, and John Sweeney saved all of $93,000 by treating the office staffers differently than the unionized teachers.
The proposed salary adjustments came in January because the nearly 1,700-member Hernando Classroom Teachers Association agreed over the summer to forgo half of their previously negotiated raises in order to stave off job cuts. The so-called step increases, based on teacher longevity, will now cost the district close to $900,000 for the rest of the budget year.
But a pitch to offer the same raise to nonunion employees died amid rationalization that $93,000 for the lower-paid office staffers was not included in the budget. That fault lies with the school board. While budgeting for a half year's worth of raises for union members, the board was remiss for not doing likewise for its other employees.
The faulty budgeting is particularly egregious because school board members' salaries will increase automatically to $33,180. The size of the raise, less than 1 percent or $263 annually, is tiny, but the symbolism is large.
Some board members like Foreman and Yant return a portion of their wages to the general fund or donate to the nonprofit education foundation. However, board member Dianne Bonfield does not, telling staff writer Tony Marrero that giving money to the general fund would be hypocritical since she disagrees with how some of that money is spent.
What nonsense. Following her logic, property owners who object to school district spending would be hypocrites for paying their tax bills.
Bonfield, one of five people with elected authority to oversee the school district general fund, was wise to support the nonunion raises. But, she can help eliminate future salary debates if she and the rest of the board prepare a budget that provides for equal treatment of all district employees.