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School Board unanimously approves planned year-end bonuses for teachers, staff

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The Prince William County School Board made it official Wednesday:  All school division teachers and staff will receive checks in July for year-end bonuses of as much as $1,600.

The board voted unanimously June 16 to use about $20.2 million of about $35 million in leftover funds from the school year that ended last week to pay for the bonuses. They are intended to recognize the hard work and extra risk teachers and staff faced as they worked through the pandemic, board members said.

During their discussion, several school board members talked about the hundreds of school staff members who worked in person at schools during even the earliest days of the pandemic to distribute food to families, prepare and handout supplies and computers for remote learning and to do myriad other tasks that could not be preformed remotely. 

Many teachers, administrators, bus drivers and staff members worked in person from the start of the 2020-21 school year, long before COVID-19 vaccines were available, and sometimes in very close contact with students. Special education students and some students learning English as a second language attended school in person from the beginning of the school year in September 2020.

School board members acknowledged there was some consideration given to trying to award different amounts to teachers and staff depending on their individual roles but decided it would be too difficult to discern how to do so fairly.

Gainesville Representative Jenn Wall likened the staff to different parts of one body, each with an equally important role.

“The intent is to show the value we place on the extraordinary contributions that have been made. … We’re all part of the team. We’re all part of the body,” she said. “Each one is an important member of Prince William County schools.”

John Wallingford, the school division’s associate superintendent for finance and risk management, said the school division had an unexpectedly large end-of-year balance partly because the state did not require schools to give back state funding as a result of having fewer students enrolled during the pandemic. Prince William County schools’ enrollment dipped by about 2,500 students during the 2020-21 school year and fell about 2,900 students under its projections, according to enrollment records. 

The school division pulled money from individual school budgets in the fall in anticipation of having to return money to the state. But state lawmakers decided in late 2020 not to request refunds, leaving the division with extra funds, Wallingford said. 

Other money was saved because the school division decided to borrow for some capital projects instead of paying for them with cash, which was the initial plan before the pandemic struck.

The bonus money will be subject to a higher tax rate deduction than usual -- 35%, Wallingford said. The deduction means the full $1,600 checks will be reduced to just more than $1,000 after taxes.

Under the plan approved by the school board, the bonus amounts will be adjusted for those working part-time and for those whose employment began during the school year. The minimum one-time pay adjustment or bonus will be $500.

All active substitute teachers and staff, temporary employees, and retired employees who earned a minimum of $1,000 this past school year, will also receive a one-time bonus of $500.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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