Originally created 01/17/04

Panel ends plan for salary survey



Worried about employee morale, the Richmond County Board of Education has scrapped plans for a salary survey it says the district can neither implement nor afford.

Board members last year placed $25,000 in the 2003-04 budget for the survey, which would have been the first in more than a decade. The board wanted a consultant to compare salaries of teachers, bus drivers and all other personnel to those of similar-sized districts to see whether Richmond County is competitive.

The last study, by an Augusta professor, led to pay raises for several school employees, including a 10 percent jump for secretaries, district Comptroller Gene Spires said.

Despite record-level tax increases, the central office has had to freeze several vacancies and watch every penny, Mr. Spires said. The district also might face a large midyear budget cut from the state and a crippling 5 percent cut for the 2004-05 school year.

"If you did (a survey), you wouldn't have funding to make the recommended changes," Mr. Spires said. "We are not going to look at increasing people's pay beyond what the state requires us to do."

Board member Helen Minchew had pushed for the survey last year.

"It was just to see if we are on par with surrounding school districts and the state," she said. "At the time, no one expressed an opposition to it."

Mrs. Minchew asked Superintendent Charles Larke about the salary study at the Jan. 8 board meeting and learned the money was earmarked for something else.

"My opinion is we asked for this and we budgeted this," she told Dr. Larke.

Dr. Larke said morale would suffer if employees saw their salary should be higher and the district didn't increase it.

The central office is asking the board to redirect the money to fund an electronic procurement and bid system. The system could save the district as much as $650,000 a year, Mr. Spires said.

The comptroller said a salary study might be feasible in the near future if the economy rebounds.

"We're not saying, 'Let's not do one,"' he said. "We're saying, 'Let's postpone it."'

"We're not saying, 'Let's not do one.' We're saying, 'Let's postpone it."' - Comptroller Gene Spires, on a school salary survey

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.