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Bladen Commissioners hear Board of Education funding request

Bladen County Schools Finance Officer Sharon Penny, left, and Supt. Dr. Robert Taylor at the February 4th Bladen County Commissioners meeting.

By Erin Smith

The Bladen County Commissioners and Board of Education are working together to create a Memorandum of Understanding concerning shelter coverage overtime compensation from Hurricane Florence.

Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor and Bladen County Schools Finance Officer Sharon Penny appeared before the commissioners during the February 4th meeting to request $42,636.96.

A list of administrative employees was presented to the board which contained names and days worked that the Board of Education wanted to compensate.

“That was one of the things we wanted to talk about,” Taylor said. “Based on the conversations we’ve had, it is our understanding that the commissioners would only pay for overtime for people who have not already been compensated for overtime.

“So, that was the information I had shared before. Because of how those hours were worked, we had a lot of people who ended up not getting compensation because it wasn’t in overtime. We wanted to do something so there can be some fairness and equity.”

During the discussion, Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt said, “Add to that Dr. Taylor, I think one thing we’re failing to remember here, and I know we have people that make lesser than others and people need all they can get, with this day and time.

“But I would like to think we can set here and consider the people that lost everything. That don’t have anything or have no money especially when it comes to supervision.  I would like to think that Mr. Martin is not going to be even wanting to receive a dime and I think he is the type person that wouldn’t be expecting to receive a dime.”

Commissioner Britt continued, “My heart is for those who lost it all and don’t get anything  and they’re all our bosses. I hope we don’t set here and squander for those supervision. Before I began working for myself I was a salaried employee for another company.”

Commissioner Britt said that as a salaried employee he worked all day and how ever many hours it took to get the job done.

“I hope our hearts fall  where they should be and concern for those who lost it all,  and I do share, just like Dr. Munn-Goins, I have shared this with you all before, I am concerned about our places, if we had this travesty, and we will I’m sure again and we do have the people to show up,” said Commissioner Britt.

“I would hope those, such as ourselves, who donated our time, and worked every day. That we would give it up those who truly need it and be real mindful that the people’s money we are passing out gets to people that lost it all,” Commissioner Britt added. “I do share that and I hope everyone takes that to heart.”

The Board of Education and County Commissioners are continuing to work on the Memorandum of Understanding to clarify exactly how many shelter personnel will be needed in the event of a declared emergency and and exactly how they will be compensated.

Watch the video from the February 4th Commissioners meeting here.

Previous Story

The Bladen County Board of Commissioners heard a request on Monday night from the Bladen County Board of Education for shelter coverage overtime compensation from Hurricane Florence.

Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor and Bladen County Schools Finance Officer Sharon Penny appeared before the commissioners to request $42,636.96.

“What we wanted to do tonight is give you the information for administrative staff and the overtime hours they worked during the hurricane,” Taylor said.

Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins said, “Dr. Taylor, my only concern is that when you were here a couple of months ago we talked about the other staff – the cafeteria staff, the custodians. I’ve had one person who called me and her overtime was something like $108. Why are they not on this?”

A list of administrative employees was presented to the board which contained names and days worked that the Board of Education wanted to compensate.

“That was one of the things we wanted to talk about,” Taylor said. “Based on the conversations we’ve had, it is our understanding that the commissioners would only pay for overtime for people who have not already been compensated for overtime.

“So, that was the information I had shared before. Because of how those hours were worked, we had a lot of people who ended up not getting compensation because it wasn’t in overtime. We wanted to do something so there can be some fairness and equity.”

Taylor explained the school board is working on a policy and a memorandum of understanding between the Commissioners and Board of Education that will detail how school staff and employees are to be paid in the future when emergency shelters are open.

“These are the only people who worked overtime and they have not been compensated,” Taylor said.

Munn-Goins asked, “You consider compensation for two weeks of work, and other folks were home, for $108?”

“That is what I’ve tried to share, Taylor said. “That is one of the things we’ve talked about. There is no fairness and equity in (overtime compensation). What kind of exacerbated this situation is when the state forgave that time for school system employees and that meant 95 percent of those who were at home, not doing anything, and the other five percent were working at the shelter but they didn’t get compensation. So, we had some people that got $108 and we had some people that worked 65 hours and got nothing and 38 hours and got nothing simply because of how (the overtime worked fell in the work week.”

Taylor explained the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) views the situation is there must be a policy in place that explains how employees are to compensated. Taylor explained the Board of Education is working to create a policy that meets FEMA’s requirements in order to avoid this happening again.

“So, you are saying they will be compensated if it happened again?” Munn-Goins asked.

“Yes ma’am,” said Taylor.

Taylor added the school board can develop a policy stating how employees will be paid, but if the board expects the commissioners to reimburse the school district, there has to be both a policy and a memorandum of understanding with the commissioners in place. Taylor said that is what the Board of Education is working towards completing.

“If we have an ice storm, and they are out of school, and they open the shelters, how will those cafeteria workers and custodians be paid then? Because FEMA is not going to compensate for that,” Munn-Goins said.

Chairman Charles Ray Peterson said in that example, the employees would have to take compensatory time.

“What that would mean is that is part of the MOU (memorandum of understanding) we are working on now – that is one of the questions that we are trying to answer — how many staff would be needed, how they will be compensated and that is what that whole MOU is about,” Taylor said.

Taylor added the Board of Education’s policy has to align with the memorandum of understanding. Taylor said he would forward to the commissioners some cost estimates to reflect a scenario such as an ice storm. He said that a couple of years ago, Bladen County had an ice storm and the costs were about $7,000.

Taylor added that in the event there is a non-FEMA declared emergency, such as an ice storm, the school system will do its part to open the emergency shelters and have staff there ready to greet anyone who may arrive.

Peterson reminded the board that the compensation issue will be discussed further at the planning retreat on Feb. 13 at Jones Lake State Park. He added that in the event of an ice storm, the county’s employees are not compensated either. Peterson said county employees must use compensatory time in that situation.

“My concern is, I worry about cafeteria staff or custodians even showing up,” Munn-Goins said. “They may not go to the shelters. So, it puts us at a disadvantage in an emergency because now you have no one there.”

Peterson said, “Well, we have to be fair and consistent with what we do with county employees.”

Commissioner Michael Cogdell noted that the list submitted consisted of administrative employees. Taylor explained that each person is reviewed to see what their hourly rate is or what their salary level is and the compensation is calculated accordingly.

The Board took no action on the matter pending further discussion at the upcoming retreat.

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