NC should reject proposal

The Northern Cambria School Board should reject a proposal to pay the district’s finance director a stipend for work connected with teacher contract negotiations.

Even if the district were “swimming” in money, which it isn’t, the extra pay would be inappropriate.

That’s because Sam Kirk Jr., the finance director, is a managerial employee working on a salaried basis.

Managers and other salaried workers in private business and industry expect to work extra hours without extra compensation. Thus, it’s important that Kirk’s employment, which is financed by taxpayers and not private customers, be no different.

Kirk is compensated generously for the good work he does day in and day out. His annual salary is $85,000, an amount that demonstrates the confidence that the district has entrusted in him.

Many managerial employees in private businesses and industries routinely work 60-hour weeks.

That happens less often in a school environment.

Meanwhile, it must be noted that Kirk wasn’t ordered to participate in contract talks. He volunteered for the extra duty.

With his existing pay arrangement, he should not have expected additional compensation, and there isn’t a firm indication whether he actually did.

Volunteering was a commendable gesture, but that gesture shouldn’t have been construed by anyone on the school board as necessitating an extra expenditure on Kirk’s behalf.

The board can argue that, without someone like Kirk available, it would have to hire a professional negotiator or lawyer to help guard the district’s interests during negotiations. However, taxpayers can argue that school board members in whom they placed their trust when they went to the ballot box shouldn’t “farm out” responsibilities that are part of their elected positions.

Unfortunately, many districts do “farm out” various degrees of the negotiations task, despite having salaried administrators and finance directors on board capable of competently representing the district’s best interests at the bargaining table.

Northern Cambria need not be one of them.

The bottom line: No governmental or school entity financed with public money should ever grant bonuses to managerial employees, either through direct use of that word or through other fuzzy descriptive words, such as “stipend.”

Any employee, whether management or rank and file, who meets or exceeds work expectations doesn’t automatically earn the right to expect extra compensation, especially when taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being tapped for the wages.

If private businesses and industries opt to pay bonuses or stipends, that’s their prerogative, for whatever reason. Their existence is not built upon the foundation of public money, some of which comes from people who are unemployed, on fixed incomes or otherwise hard-pressed to make ends meet.

If businesses must raise the prices of their goods and services in part because of bonuses they’ve granted, customers retain the right to make their purchases elsewhere. School districts don’t accord their taxpayers such an opportunity.

Despite Kirk’s value in his important position and his offer to do more, the board should remain committed to protecting the district’s financial interests, which, in this instance, means approving no additional pay for the finance chief.