DCS uses budgetary breathing room to issue staff bonuses

Dexter Community School district employees will each receive a $275 one-time bonus payment after a decision by the Board of Education earlier this week, which decided to pass along a small amount of black ink that turned up on the ledgers last month during the amendment process for the annual budget.

Yearly school district budgets must be drafted and ratified by school boards no later than July 1 for submission to the state of Michigan. That draft is then amended throughout the year and a finalized version is finalized and again ratified towards the end of the school year.

This year’s mid-fiscal year revise in November revealed a much more positive outcome for student headcount. Whereas Dexter schools were anticipating a decrease of 25 students and budgeted at the outset of the fiscal year accordingly, the actual result now that we’re well into the 2015-16 school year has been a net increase of three pupils in the district overall.

Board of Education President Michael Wendorf praised the district’s teaching and administrative staff for their continued success in educating the community’s children. The district continues to do well on measurable criteria such as standardized testing and other state mandated barometers for individual school district performance.

“The Board of Education has always valued its administrators, teachers, and staff and their deep and unwavering commitment to our children and families,” Wendorf said. “(We) also continue to value the collaborative way in which these same administrators, teachers and staff have helped our community school district continue to provide a top notch education and positive role-modeling in an era of declining funding and escalating costs.

“Our administrators, teachers and staff have always put our children first. This small bonus is an acknowledgement of and thank you for the tremendous contributions and commitment made by these professionals to the betterment of both our district and community.”

Employees have typically received zero percent increases to their wages for the past several years, which is budget-speak for “no raise this year” where accountants and contract negotiators are involved. In fact, district employees represented by the Dexter Education Association, the DCS teacher’s union, saw their wages decrease by 1.5 percent while the other bargaining units received a 1 percent reduction at one point over the past several years.

Of course, those numbers don’t account for the downward pressure applied to everyone’s wages from the perspective of real purchasing power as a result of yearly inflation.

Superintendent Chris Timmis said that he had no problem with giving a small bonus to his staff.

“This is really the least we can do for people in a time when they’re doing great things for our kids and they’ve been giving and given and giving &mdash: it’s trying to treat our employees well,” Timmis explained. “You have to manage an organization … it doesn’t do us any good to save it up right now. It’s not a lot to our operations, but it means a lot to our people — teachers, bus drivers, custodians, administrators.”

The district’s fund balance ended at just over $6 million during the previous fiscal year for the 2014-15 school year, and is projected to be just a bit over $6.1 million as the current snapshot of this fiscal year stands after the November budget amendment.

Timmis said that another factor putting financial pressure on district staff involves the result of negotiations last year, where the district’s employees asked for a switch from the DCS administered and funded health plan to one administered by MESSA and supplemented with BCBS Michigan, due to the latter providing a broader, more forgiving network of practitioners and hospitals.

That change has also cost employees individually thousands of dollars more in overall costs.

The total amount of the bonuses will amount to $150,000 overall and will affect DEA, DESPA, DAA, WWBDAMA, and all individual contract employees.

Click this link to open the PDF document that contains the packet materials detailing the bonus proposal, which starts on page 13 of 27 of this document with the DEA bonus language.

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