Educational professionals in the Lafayette school district normally receive a yearly pay increase in July, referred to as a step, but for the past 7 months they have had to wait.
Tammy Maund, the financial adviser for the county, said the delay has a lot to do with taxes — and when the money comes in.
Lafayette schools depend on local taxes, such as property taxes, to pay their staff, Maund said. The contract states a step increase will not occur if the money is not available.
“You just don’t have [the money] in the beginning,” said Robby Edwards, Lafayette schools superintendent.
Now the district has the funds to give the step raises and Lafayette school workers will each receive about $750 in their February paycheck, the amount they have been shorted in step increases since July, Edwards said.
Lafayette County is home to two schools: an elementary and a high school. The high school has grades six through 12. Both schools have about 600 students, said Stewart Hancock, principal of Lafayette High School.
Hancock said the missing money didn’t affect him and his wife negatively, but as a single check, it was a sizeable amount. Hancock’s wife is a teacher at the high school.
Hancock said he wasn’t surprised by the district’s inability to provide the step. He feels most districts are on just as tight of a budget as they are.
He said that money isn’t the same anymore, especially with the current economy.
Edwards said Lafayette’s situation is “out of the ordinary.”
Executive Director of the Florida School Board Association Wayne Blanton said Florida school districts are unable to provide the step on occasion.
Blanton said it is difficult to compare districts because different districts receive different funding amounts.
“The funding formula is extremely complicated,” Blanton said.
Maund said Lafayette depends on taxes to make payroll, which is why the district was forced to borrow $100,000 for November payroll.
She said funds are transferred on Nov. 8 and Nov. 26, and payroll was on Nov. 22. She said she knew the district would be able to pay the $100,000 back “once the 26th rolled around.”
Lafayette needed that money.
“If the money is there, the teachers get a step,” Hancock said.
Teachers, specifically, received two extra pay increases this year.
Edwards said Gov. Rick Scott set aside $480 million for teacher salaries for the 2013/2014 school year. As a result, teachers will start 2015 with three additional steps, meaning the districts are going to have to pay for those increases.
“So next year, you’ve already raised the bar,” Edwards said. “From a financial standpoint, it makes me nervous.”
He said he doesn’t trust that there will be more money in 2015 to help cover the pay increase.
“You’re playing a guessing game,” he said.