ELKHART — Elkhart schools can’t afford to give its employees pay raises.
But several employees resigned or retired in recent years, and they weren’t replaced. The corporation is using that money — mostly from the general fund — to give hundreds of employees one-time stipends of up to $800 in some cases.
“Because we know we have the funds available, we can do this now,” Elkhart schools Superintendent Rob Haworth said Tuesday, Jan. 14, after the school board approved the stipends.
Haworth said school employees haven’t seen a raise in at least five years, simply because money coming in from the state hasn’t been enough to support sustained raises. In addition, administrators saw their pay cut in 2010, and other employees were furloughed for several days that year.
Some teachers were approved to receive a stipend a few months ago, when the Elkhart Teacher’s Association petitioned the board on behalf of teachers with more than 20 years of experience.
Haworth said Tuesday that though the board approved the teacher stipends last October, several board members thought other school employees should get equal treatment. That, combined with a request from a union group, pushed the board to consider stipends for other employees and administrators, as well as teachers.
So which employees will be getting a stipend, and how much will they receive?
Between 700 and 800 classified employees — those working as bus drivers, food service personnel, administrative assistants, paraprofessionals, school nurses and others working in positions other than administration or teaching, can receive a stipend of up to $500. All employees in this group will receive at least $115 but could get the maximum of $500 if they have not had any pay increase in the last five years.
About 75 percent of administrators will receive a stipend of up to $800, depending on whether they have had any increase in pay in the past five years.
Doug Thorne, executive director of personnel and legal services, said administrators’ stipends are handled differently because an administrator would typically work the entire year, rather than just during the school year. He also said the length of a work day for an administrator may be different than a classified employee, and an administrator may have a higher level of education than a classified employee.
Those factors were taken into consideration when calculating stipends, he said.
Stipends for all eligible employees will be paid at the end of January.