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Fayette BoE restores school system pay cut

It was only a matter of time. The remaining 3 percent of the larger 4.5 percent pay cut to Fayette County School System employees two years ago will be restored effective May 1.

After some discussion and a recommendation from Superintendent Jeff Bearden, the Fayette County Board of Education voted 3-2 to restore the cut immediately.

The fundamental question was not whether to restore the remaining portion of the cut since all board members had stated their desire to do so on numerous occasions, but rather whether to restore the cut effective May 1 or wait for budget figures in the next few weeks that would shed light on longer-term school system finances.

By the end of a discussion that was essentially a repeat of one held the previous week and on prior occasions, the motion to restore pay on May 1 came with a 3-2 vote. Voting in favor of the motion were board members Janet Smola, Terri Smith and Sam Tolbert. Opposed were Marion Key and Chairman Bob Todd.

The discussion on the question between board members came essentially from two lines of reasoning. One line called for restoring the pay on May 1 and deal with any potential future shortfall of school system finances if and when that time came, including taking back the restored pay if necessary, either through additional pay cuts or by requiring furlough days.

The other line of reasoning said that it would be better to know more about the financial outlook so that the pay, once restored could remain in place without the potential for having salaries cut again. That information would ostensibly be available in a few weeks when the board will have to adopt a new budget that begins July 1.

The recommendation by Bearden was to restore the 3 percent on May 1. Asked about the basis for the recommendation, Bearden said he based it on conversations with individual board members last week.

The Fayette County Board of Eduction in January voted unanimously to restore one-third of the 4.5 percent amount that had been cut two years ago when the school system faced an operating deficit.

The public comments portion of the meeting prior to the discussion and vote to restore the three percent cut included comments from a dozen speakers, all school system employees or the members of employees’ families.

All asked the board to restore the pay cut on May 1. A number of those referenced the $19 million fund balance projected for June 30.
One of the employees said she had seen sadness of the faces of employees and had seen morale go down when the 4.5 percent pay cut was implemented two years ago.

Fayette Association of Educators representative Dana Camp in her statement said that school system employees are overwhelmingly willing to run the risk of having to take furlough days in the future if school system finances require another pay decrease.

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