By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY — Getting to financial stability after years of budget cuts has not been an easy journey. However, with its finances in order, the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.’s Board of Trustees has voted to reward non-union employees.
The board approved a 2 percent, one-time stipend for classified employees of NA-FC School Corp. as well as a salary step increase for the next school year — 2013-2014 — which ends a three-year wage freeze.
“It’s not a lot. We would like to do more, but it’s what we can afford at this time,” said Fred McWhorter, chief business officer for the corporation.
McWhorter said the corporation does not plan on any staff cuts this year. He also said bargaining will begin after spring break on new contracts for bus drivers and food-service employees. Negotiations with the teachers’ union will start Aug. 1. McWhorter said salaries for administrators, psychologists and computer technicians will also be looked at for possible raises soon.
“We believe all of our employees are important and we will deal with every employee group,” he said. “We have established a timeline to deal with each group. Obviously, we want to be fiscally prudent as we move forward.”
The classified pay increase passed by a 6-1 vote at the last meeting with board member Rebecca Gardenour voting against the proposal.
“My attitude was everyone deserves a raise, but I think we should wait before we recommend raises,” she said. “We should wait until everyone can get a raise. We don’t know what will happen six months from now.”
Superintendent Bruce Hibbard was pleased the corporation was able to provide raises now after a three-year freeze.
“Now that our financial condition is back on track, it is time to recognize our front-line employees who were hit the hardest by the recession and were thus most impacted by the wage freeze,” he said. “We are grateful for their continued service during these difficult times.”
The board also voted to approve a plan to refinance middle school construction bonds. The bonds were initially issued in 2002 for $80 million and refinanced in 2005. With interest rates historically low, McWhorter said this is the perfect time to refinance them once again.
He said the corporation will save about $4.1 million in interest during the life of the bonds by refinancing, and will lower the debt service payment up to $300,000 per year. He said all of the savings will benefit property taxpayers.
“It is always great news when we can, through fiscal responsibility, reduce property taxes,” Hibbard said.