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Berkeley Co. staff, teacher raises OK'd

April 22, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved additional pay increases for teachers and service personnel in addition to the raises approved by the West Virginia Legislature and Gov. Joe Manchin earlier this year.

Professional staff will receive at least a $400 increase and service personnel will get a minimum of $300. The increases are based on pay for a 200-day position.

State lawmakers approved increases of $1,600 and $700 for professional staff and service personnel respectively.

The local increase will cost the school district about $900,000 to $1 million, James Welton, the school board's contracted financial consultant, told the board.

Combined with the board-approved $1,600 and $900 raises last year, Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II, said the school board committed about $4.3 million toward salaries, including a substantial portion coming from the district's excess levy, which is approved by county taxpayers.

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"And we have pushed this as far as we can go," Arvon said of the increase.

The acting president of the Berkeley County Education Association, a branch of the state's largest teacher union, was disappointed.

"I was looking for what they did last year and a little bit more," said Patricia "Pat" Brockway-Votel.

"I was looking for our superintendent to be a little bit more competitive ... we need to be competitive and it just looks like we're not going to be," Brockway-Votel added.

Welton said after the vote that he shared some of the concerns of board member Patrick Murphy, who talked at length about the impact of the economy on property values and tax collection for school revenue as a result.

"I'm really sucking wind here, holding my breath..." Murphy said.

"All of us want to have qualified people in the classroom ... but we also have to be very cautious about our budget," added Murphy, who later described himself as a "conservative by nature."

Board President WIlliam F. "Bill" Queen said he was "comfortable" with approving the modification of the school district's budget to include the pay increase, given Welton's review of the budget, which must be approved by May 1.

Arvon said the school district was taking virtually every penny of the "local share" money that state lawmakers have allowed to be spent more flexibly and returned it to employees.

After talking with state leaders at a meeting in southern West Virginia on Monday, Arvon said he doubted lawmakers would give any more flexibility to spending the local share money for the next few years.

The school received an additional $2.2 million in "local share" money, Arvon said. But of that, about $1.2 million was required to be given to the county's four public libraries, according to a state formula unique to Berkeley County, Arvon said.

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