Supervisor seeks pay data from school system

Superintendent says it would cost $700 to provide salary information

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County leaders would not back a supervisor’s request for information from the school system

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey told the board she asked Superintendent Jeremy Raley and County Administrator Mary T. Price in December for detailed information on employee pay. Bailey has received information from most county government departments. The superintendent has told Bailey that it would cost about $700 to fulfill her information request.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows government administrations and school divisions to charge certain amounts to cover the costs associated with fulfilling information requests. Bailey has questioned why the school system would charge that much for data she claims is easily obtained.

Bailey made a motion to request that the school system provide detailed salary information on employees to each board member. District 5 Marsha Shruntz sided with Bailey. Her motion failed by a vote of 3-2.

“We give money to the schools,” Bailey said. “I do not understand why I can’t have the information I need to do my job, without paying for it, I might add.”

Chairman David Ferguson did not support her request and pointed out that supervisors allocate money to the school system but it’s up to their board to decide how to use the funds.

“I, for one, do not need salaries down to an individual level for the school system,” Ferguson said.

Shruntz said Bailey’s request is appropriate considering that the school system accounts for 85 percent of spending in the county.

Supervisors John R. “Dick” Neese and Steven Baker disagreed.

“I think we’re getting down to micromanaging something we shouldn’t be involved in,” Neese said.

Raley said in an email Wednesday that he has no record of any other supervisor asking for school employee salary data in the past prior to Bailey’s request. The system follows a school board policy when it receives a request for information. Per the policy, the system can charge a fee for staff and computer search time, Raley stated.

Ferguson suggested that Bailey get the information from the Shenandoah Free Press, which publishes salaries. Bailey said she shouldn’t have to go to the paper for the information.

“I don’t know that I would be comfortable demanding from the school board anything,” Ferguson said.

Bailey reiterated her motion stated “request” not demand. Bailey noted that she has yet to receive some data from the county government.

“Chairman Ferguson is making statements that we’re not taking care of our employees and they’re not getting any raises,” Bailey said. “We have a serious challenge this year with the budget and I am trying to get all the information I need. … I should not have to pay $700 for it.”

The same resolution of support failed by a 4-2 vote at the board’s Feb. 6 work session.

Bailey specifically asked for a list of school and government employees by department with current salary data. As Bailey told the board, she sought this information to help her learn more about the county’s budget and to understand the staffing needs for each department.

“I am also wanting to compare the amounts with the listing received from outside sources — a list that represents either 2012 actual figures or 2013 budgeted amounts for each employee

Price provided a list of 237 full-time employees and salaries by department, and 124 part-time or seasonal workers with hourly pay rates. Bailey said her analysis did not include data from the Department of Social Services or the Health Department because she had not received the information for those agencies.

“The superintendent of schools has refused to provide such a listing, claiming that the information does not exist in tabular form and would take up to 25 hours to develop at a cost of up to $700,” Bailey said. “I find this hard to believe since the information on the software provided by the superintendent shows that such a listing should be available with the push of a button, and the budget and report amounts provided on school operations are typically summarized by department … with the salary total.”

Bailey went on to say “without such a listing it is impossible to determine the true staffing or compensation of existing school departments or what other ‘misclassifications’ may exist.”

Bailey cited comments made by board Ferguson at a meeting in January where he claimed county employees have not received a pay raise or step increase in seven years. But according to Bailey’s calculations from the information she has received, employee salaries have increased by 9.68 percent.

As Bailey explained later that day, some of the salary increase came as a result of higher contributions to the Virginia Retirement System. In fiscal 2013, employees received a 5-percent raise to cover an equal increase in what they must contribute to the retirement system. The county included an additional 1.5 percent salary increase to cover the extra cost associated with the raises. Employees then received a 2-percent increase in pay.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com