Finance director's raise stirs discussion

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A large raise for the school district’s director of finance is stirring up some passions at the school board.

A sizeable boost to the annual salary of Shannon Venable, to $97,185, effective Feb. 17, was considered by the school board, but then deferred to a workshop and special meeting slated for this Friday morning, March 5 at 10 a.m.

Board Chairman Stacy Kirvin, and Board Member Jared Mock each voted in favor of approving the increase at the Feb. 25 meeting, while their three colleagues – Pam Marshall, Fonda Davis and Melonie Inzetta – voted to present it at the workshop before any approval was granted.

“Three of the board members didn’t feel they have enough information,” said Kirvin.

The pay increase was brought up in the public comment portion of the meeting by Monica Moron, in her capacity as the newly elected leader of the Franklin Educational Support Personnel Association, which is the union representing support staff at the district.

“For one position to receive that kind of money is a little unfair,” said Morón.

She said that at last year’s contract talks, $60,000 was earmarked for the association’s bargaining unit of 65 people. “This would be an approximately $15,000 increase for one position, one quarter of what 65 people received. That needs to be taken into consideration.

“That is the best we could do? Is it? I’m not quite sure at that point,” Morón said.

She said the average pay raise was a little over 30 cents an hour, with the highest being 75 cents.

“Be prepared to say yes when we go back to bargaining,” she said. “We will not take no for an answer.”

Morón’s comments came as part of an introduction by the unions of their new officers. Tara Klink has been named to head the Franklin County Teachers Association, with Hilary Stanton as vice president, Sharon Anderson treasurer and Sarah Messer secretary.

Morón’s leadership team includes Bobby WIntons as vice president, Dana Putnal treasurer, and Connie Sawyer secretary.

During school board discussions, Davis opened by saying “We should have had a workshop on this. We need to look out for the teachers also.

“Shouldn’t we have workshopped this and made her do it for next year’s budget?” he asked.

Kirvin defended the proposed pay hike, as well as the district’s recent granting of increases to its staffers.

“I have worked in many districts over the last four years,” he said. “Franklin County is one of the few who have continued to give raises over five years. The mechanism that allows us to give those raises is our finance office.

“To me it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison,” he said.

Kirvin said “we’re talking about a $12,000 raise, not a $40,000 one.”

Pam Marshall said “Shannon's well worth it,” but did ask why the matter wasn't being slated for the upcoming budget workshops for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Superintendent Steve Lanier recounted a history in the district of turnover over top finance staff, including some who appeared not to have the ability to navigate complicated school finance and state funding issues.

“You have to look at the history,” he said. “We went through seven in 18 years, each averaging two-and-one-half years.

“Compare what Gulf County makes and what Wakulla makes,” Lanier said. “It’s even, it’s the same amount.

“We need to keep finances solvent. We don’t want to go back to where we were 14 years ago,” he said. “We’re fortunate we have someone as talented as she is.”

A breakdown of Venable’s compensation is that she works 12 months, the equivalent of 251 days, and receives group benefits of about $7,600 in addition to her salary. If approved, Venable’s management classificiation and job title would go from director of financial services to deputy superintendent of finance.

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Finance director's raise stirs discussion

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