Isle of Wight, Surry educators due $1,000 bonuses this month

Published 5:04 pm Friday, December 2, 2022

Isle of Wight and Surry county educators can expect to see a $1,000 bonus added to their paychecks this month.

When the General Assembly adopted Virginia’s 2022-24 budget in May, the legislature included a provision mandating $1,000 bonuses for educators to be paid in December with a portion of the state’s remaining federal pandemic relief funds from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

A June 6 memorandum and attached spreadsheet from state Superintendent Jillian Balow listed Isle of Wight as eligible to receive $557,616 and Surry eligible for $83,213, based on each school system’s number of required positions under Virginia’s “standards of quality.”

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The standards of quality, or “SOQs,” allocate state funding for teacher salaries based on each school system’s grade-by-grade enrollment. Virginia’s Board of Education, a nine-member body appointed by the governor, mandates one teacher per 24 students in grades K-3, one per 25 in grades 4-6 and one per 21 at the middle and high school levels as the statewide minimum staffing ratios.

Isle of Wight County supervisors voted Nov. 17 to add the $557,616 “or as much as shall be received from the Virginia Department of Education” to Isle of Wight County Schools’ 2022-23 budget, noting that the total had been revised to roughly $578,000 as of that date. Surry County supervisors followed suit, voting on Dec. 1 to add $85,460 to Surry County Public Schools’ budget.

Isle of Wight’s original $557,616 allocation, according to Balow’s memorandum and spreadsheet, was based on 517.99 SOQ-funded positions. IWCS Human Resources Director Laura Sullivan reported at a Sept. 21 joint meeting of Isle of Wight’s supervisors and School Board that as of that date, the school system was allocated 537.24 SOQ-funded positions, but actually had 739 total employees this school year.

A letter the school system recently sent to its employees states “funding in excess of the state allotment” had been allocated by the school system “in order to provide a $1,000 bonus to as many IWCS employees as possible.”

According to IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, the school system used $250,384 of its own money to cover the cost of the bonuses for most non-SOQ employees and offset the employer-required portion Social Security contributions. According to the school system’s letter, the only employees who will not receive a $1,000 bonus are substitute positions, tutors, adult education supplemental positions, and supplemental coaching positions.

The bonuses are to be included with IWCS employees’ Dec. 15 paycheck.

Surry supervisors, in addition to providing the allocated state funding, added $204,450 to Surry County Public Schools’ budget to provide bonuses to its non-SOQ employees and offset the cost of taxes so each employee would receive the full $1,000.

Surry County Public Schools’ just over $85,000 in state-funded bonuses, according to Assistant Superintendent Giron Wooden, is based on roughly 85 SOQ positions, though Surry actually has 189 employees and six vacancies. The state, he explained, will only fund 2.05 second grade teachers at Surry Elementary, but the school employs three.

“You can’t have 0.05% of a person; you have to have a full person,” Wooden said.

The six vacancies, once filled, “are still due that money,” Wooden added.

Surry Supervisor Timothy Calhoun cast the dissenting vote, stating he was looking for ways the supervisors could save money given “we have increased taxes over the last few years.”

Surry County  raised its real estate tax rate from 70 cents per $100 in assessed value to 77 cents in 2021 to offset declining revenues. The county then reduced its rate to 72 cents in June of this year to provide relief to homeowners who’d reported seeing five- and six-figure increases in their home valuations.