The Harnett County Schools Board of Education voted to reward the people one member called the “backbone of our school system.”
For the last several years, the HCS Board of Education, in an effort to show support for its classified employees, approved end-of-year bonuses for teacher aides, janitors, child nutrition staff and others. Board member Bill Morris offered a motion to continue that tradition following a year in which many classified employees continued working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is for the lowest paid employees we got,” Morris said. “This is about the only way we can do anything for them. We will give it to them again this year.”
Money for the bonuses in years past came from the operating budget after repeated unsuccessful attempts to get permanent pay raises were included in the overall budget. Deeming the payments bonuses and not raises, allowed the board of education to distribute them at the end of the year.
“We have tried for years to get enough money added to the budget to give our classified staff a $500 a year pay raise,” said Morris. “It never worked. We would take residual dollars out of the operating budget and we know from experience that we can come up with the $400,000 to give the $500 bonus. If it’s a pay raise, it’s an annual reoccurring thing. We come up with the money every year.”
Classified employee pay remains a concern, Morris said, especially when compared to surrounding districts and area competition.
“They are some of the cheapest paid employees in the region,” Morris said. “In years gone by, we have had an employee who left us and went to the county to do the exact same thing and got a $2,500 a year pay raise. We want to help these people and let them know that we’re doing what we can for them.”
Board member Don Godfrey said he planned to appear before the county commissioners again this year in hopes of securing a raise for the estimated 1,000 classified employees in the HCS system.
“It’s been so long since they had a decent pay raise, it’s pathetic,” Godfrey said. “I think something needs to be done for these people as hard as they work. They’re the backbone of our school system.”
Even after campuses closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cafeteria and other child nutrition employees continued preparing and distributing thousands of meals for families every day.
Bonuses went out in December in past years, but the board announced no definitive date Monday night.
-Dunn Daily Record