In a Monday meeting in which the Gainesville school board tentatively adopted a $51 million general fund budget, school board members fielded comments from several teachers who voiced concerns regarding the proposed pay cut, which would last no longer than two years.
Younger or less experienced teachers said they felt it was unfair for a teacher or administrator who earned more than them to absorb the same pay cut. Older or more experienced teachers said they felt the flat pay cut was fair because they are nearing retirement and their pensions are based on their two consecutive years of highest pay.
Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the board is considering cutting teacher and staff pay in an effort to save another $1.3 million and balance the budget. Dyer said the cut would be in place until the board paid off the system's estimated $5.6 million deficit within the next two years.
"We've got to get over the fact that it's not fair to any of us, but we've got to do something," Dyer said of the pay cuts at Monday's meeting.
Gainesville school board member Kelvin Simmons said between state cuts and an anticipated decrease in local revenue, a system-wide pay cut is unavoidable.
"The bottom line is, Dr. Dyer said it, we just don't have the money. It's just not there. We don't want to take a penny away from anybody," he said. "... I value what everybody said in here today, but if you work in this school system, you're going to take a cut."
Unlike the Hall County school system, where the local supplement makes up 10 percent of all teachers' gross salaries, the local supplement of Gainesville teachers' salaries range from about 10 percent to 12 percent to provide beginner teachers more pay than other local systems to attract the area's brightest. The state generally funds the remainder of teachers' salaries after the local supplement.
A 2 percent pay cut across the board, for example, would negatively affect more experienced employees much more than less experienced employees, Gainesville schools chief financial officer Janet Allison said.
Gainesville High School math teacher Elie Viviant said at the meeting he believed younger teachers shouldn't have to bear the brunt of the school system's financial constraints.
"I think we all need to be cut, but I think the cuts need to be fair," he said. "I don't see why I should have to take an extra share of pay cut. I think the fairest would be to take a percentage."
Fair Street IB World School art teacher Anne Begnaud has been teaching in the Gainesville system for 28 years and is near retirement. She said she's concerned the proposed pay cut will negatively affect not just this year and next year's salaries, but also her pension each year after retirement.
"As one of the more senior teachers ... it really makes the teachers on our end take a real substantial cut in pay if you do a flat percentage," she said.
Board of Education Chairman David Syfan said he is willing to listen to hear out anyone with new ideas.
"We do value your input," he told the teachers at the meeting. "If anybody could come up with a better way, we would be grateful. We're all ears. If anyone could come up with a better, more fair solution, we want to hear from you."