Teachers' December paychecks are coming wrapped in a big green bow.
The Legislature's $1,000 bonus is on its way in several school districts.
But some teachers are getting less than $1,000, because of miscalculations when the bonus bill went through the 2007 Legislature. And, of course, Uncle Sam will take about 40 percent of the largesse.
Still, it's a bonus, which school workers rarely receive.
"Hopefully, that will help them through the Christmas season," said Mark Mickelsen, spokesman for the Utah Education Association. "Most (districts) are trying to give the maximum they can give based on the funding they've received. ... I think in those districts that decided to be more cautious, we're hoping the legislators, when they meet, are going to restore that to the districts. I think there is a lot of good intent on the Hill to do that."
Lawmakers last winter promised certificated school employees meaning teachers, principals, counselors and media specialists $1,000 bonuses and $2,500 raises this school year. They also wanted to give a $360 bonus to classified employees bus drivers, secretaries and other school workers.
But calculation errors by the State Office of Education and the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst meant the Legislature came up short about $2.4 million for the bonuses, and up to $20 million too low to cover the raises.
Districts have dealt with the shortfall differently.
Davis School District teachers are getting $975 bonuses; classified employees are getting $300 basically, reflecting the money the Legislature gave. Any additional money making up the shortfall will go to teachers as soon as the Legislature appropriates it.
"That's considered one of our highest priorities," said Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley and Executive Appropriations Committee co-chairman.
But Jordan teachers are getting the full $1,000. Classified employees are getting $500 an additional gift costing the Jordan Board of Education about $740,000, spokesman Michael Kelley said.
Jordan employees next week will receive a memo detailing the bonuses, planned for the Dec. 20 paycheck.
"I think there's been a lot of things in the newspapers and things reported, and a lot of people are confused about when and how the bonus will be paid," Kelley said.
The bonuses do come with strings: They only go to those who have received a satisfactory evaluation. In Granite District, the most recent evaluation for beginning teachers and some career teachers came in November, district spokesman Randy Ripplinger said. Eight did not hit the mark and therefore won't get the bonus, though they could get it after their next evaluation.
Also, no school district administrators get a bonus, even if they are certificated, under the law.
The Murray Board of Education, however, decided to give district bosses, except the superintendent and the business administrator, the same $960 bonus teachers are getting, business administrator Tim Leffel said. The district will pay for that itself.
Murray and Davis employees officially got their bonuses Friday.
But some Murray teachers' money apparently landed in their checking accounts Thursday. One was worried enough about it to call."They think we made a mistake and they'll have to pay it back," Leffel said Thursday. "I'm probably going to get 100 calls like that tomorrow."
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