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Bus contractors support pay hike at hearing

February 10, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett's proposed budget brought comments of support and criticism from four people Tuesday night.

Bartlett gave a brief presentation at the first in a series of public hearings on the budget.

About 25 residents turned out for the 40-minute hearing, including several school bus contractors. Speaking for them, Terry Hovermale said he supported an increase in the pay of contract drivers.

The pay raise, the 13th funding priority in the budget proposal, would cost $149,666.

School bus contractors are paid based on a table of rates. Several of those have not increased since fiscal year 1992, said Hovermale, president of the Washington County School Bus Contractors Association.

The group of 39 drivers provide 66 of the school system's buses. Hovermale submitted a feasibility study to the Washington County Board of Education that showed pay rates and other figures from other counties in the state.

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Teri Williamson criticized the budget proposal as contrary to the strategic plan.

She said she is "not satisfied that we are in a budget process driven by curriculum and student needs." The budget does not reflect the priorities of the schools, she said.

Williamson pointed to items like the creation of a public relations supervisor for $66,827, asking where that priority came from.

If the budget is "needs driven," she said, "maybe whose needs have to be more clearly defined."

Bill Thomas said more teachers are more important to the school system than more administrators. The budget proposal "seems awfully heavy on the administration side."

He suggested fewer administrative positions. "We need to give some of these principals the teachers they are asking for," Thomas said. "What I really want to emphasize is the need for extra teachers."

Nancy Allen spoke in favor of three line items in the budget. She praised the proposed teachers' salary increase.

"It should not cost our teachers to work in Washington County," she said. "Pay them what they're worth."

The new middle school reading teachers are needed to turn around a downward trend in reading performance, she added.

The coordinator of advanced programs "is the link we so desperately need to provide services to advanced students," she said. "The time is now for our gifted and talented students."

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