BENTONVILLE -- School District employees will receive a bonus just in time for Christmas for the second straight year.
The School Board at a special meeting Tuesday unanimously approved bonuses equal to 1.2% of a person's annual contract amount, with a cap of $1,000. The bonus will accompany employees' Dec. 20 paycheck.
It will cost the district $1.6 million, according to Janet Schwanhausser, deputy superintendent and chief financial officer. The district employs about 2,300 people.
The district doled out the same bonus to employees last year at this time, also at a cost of $1.6 million.
"We took this action last year because we knew how hard the year was, and we all knew it was the right thing," said Eric White, board president. "We're learning this year is just as hard as last year, maybe a little bit harder."
White acknowledged $1.6 million is a lot of money, but added the bonus will be a "really big deal" to a lot of employees.
"I think they'll appreciate it," he said.
Bentonville's minimum salary for teachers this school year is $47,799; for that, a 1.2% bonus would be about $574. Employees are eligible for the bonus as long as they don't resign, retire or take a leave of absence, Schwanhausser said.
To offset the cost of the bonus, the district could reduce from $5.1 million to $3.6 million the amount it planned to transfer from the operating fund to the building fund for future construction, Schwanhausser said. Alternatively, the district might use some of its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money to cover some other allowable costs in the operating budget. That decision would be up to the board, she said.
In the only other business item on Tuesday's agenda, the board unanimously approved a new zone map that will be used for future board elections.
The board last week adopted a new system of representation such that five members will represent specific geographic zones and two members will serve in at-large positions. Up to now, each of the seven members has been elected by zone.
The switch to having two at-large members means all district voters will have a say in electing three of the seven board members -- their zone representative and the two at-large representatives -- instead of just one.
Willie Cowgur and Kelly Carlson will be the initial at-large board members. Each of the other five zoned board seats will go up for election in November 2022 under the newly designed zones. Cowgur and Carlson will remain in their at-large positions.
Then, after that election, each newly elected board member will draw to decide when their positions will come up next for election so their terms are staggered over a five-year period. Board members usually serve five-year terms.
The district had to redraw board zones anyway because of the latest census results. Heavy growth over the past decade resulted in the seven zones becoming unbalanced population-wise.
Each of the new five zones has about 22,000 residents, according to the zone map approved by the board. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission designed the zones to be nearly equal in population.
The map also was drawn so that none of the incumbents must run against each other next year if they decide to run for reelection.
See the map
Visit https://bit.ly/3cHIP1V to see a map of the new Bentonville School Board zones approved at Tuesday’s board meeting,