Washington County School Board expands bonuses to about 176 employees not covered by legislative action

The Washington County School District Office at 121 W. Tabernacle St., St. George, Utah, March 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — At a special meeting of the board of education for the Washington County School District, board members discussed and ultimately approved measures to expand a legislative payout to district staff members not covered by the state budget.

Members of the Washington County Board of Education, along with business administrator Brent Bills (far left,) listen to comment from a district administrator, St. George, Utah, March 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

In the latest legislative session, lawmakers passed the budget for the state’s public education for fiscal year 2021. Part of the legislation allocated funds to provide a $1,500 bonus to teachers and a $1,000 bonus to other qualifying school-level employees.

“Back in December, before the legislative session, they were saying, ‘We’re going to do something for people working in schools,’” Brent Bills, business administrator for the district, said at Monday’s meeting. “We sent information to our legislators saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got some people that have worked incredibly hard just to make school happen that aren’t covered,’ but they said ‘no.’ There were still about 176 employees in our school district that were being left out.”

Bus drivers or food service workers in direct contact with kids would qualify for the Legislature’s payout, but food service administrators, warehouse staff, maintenance workers and payroll and HR employees were not covered under the legislation.

“I’ve got people working 60-65 hour weeks every single week since July,” Bills said. “That’s what it’s taken to make everything work. And they’re salaried, so they’re not getting any extra money.”

Bills said he spoke with business administrators around the state, and universally they were turning to their respective school boards to secure funds for the employees that were left out. After some consideration, he decided to propose a $1,000 dollar bonus for the employees that weren’t covered.

The proposal would have the school district allocate around $220,000 to cover the nonqualifying workers. The funds would be acquired by redirecting surplus money from COVID relief packages to cover items generally supplied by the general fund and by using money left from programs that were canceled as a result of the pandemic, Bills said.

The motion to approve the expanded payout was put forward by board member Terry Hutchinson, and the motion passed unanimously.

Other business: bonds, buildings and the ‘deal of the century’

In other business, the school board also hosted a public hearing on a bond project item change. The change would simply combine two separate items related to heating, ventilation and air conditioning at Pine View High School into one item for the purposes of the bond. No members of the public offered comment on the issue.

After the public hearing, the board members approved the action items related to the bond project change and the proposed 2021-2022 school fee schedule with little discussion. Then, the board deliberated on awarding a bid for construction on the district warehouse and transportation building.

“We’re adding on to the current warehouse,” Bills said. “We’re pushing out the east wall of the warehouse about 30 feet. It’s going to allow us to add another loading dock down there and build additional freezer space. So we’re about doubling the size of freezer space. As for the transportation building, we’re actually going to add an additional bay to the west.”

The project’s cost was initially quoted at around $2.5 million. After beginning a request for proposals process, the district received a bid of $1.96 million from Bud Mahas Construction, Bills said. The warehouse and transportation building is located behind Bloomington Elementary School on Brigham Rd.

L-R: Board of Education Vice President Becky Dunn, Physical Facilities Executive Director Craig Hammer and board members Craig Seegmiller and David Stirland at the Washington County School District board meeting, St. George, Utah, March 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

The motion to accept the construction company’s bid was put forward by board member Craig Seegmiller and approved unanimously.

In an update on a property purchase for planned development near Dixie Springs, Physical Facilities Executive Director Craig Hammer discussed a proposed trade for a site that would ultimately support an elementary and an intermediate school.

“We’re trading our 20-acre piece, and we’re picking up 28 acres,” Hammer said. “The difference between the two is about $470,000, which is about $58,000-something an acre. If that’s not the most shocking number today, I don’t know what is. It’s the deal of the century.”

The motion to approve the proposed trade was put forward by Seegmiller and unanimously approved by the board.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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