Bentonville School Board approves bonus for staff

Bentonville School District administration building.

BENTONVILLE -- The School District's employees will receive a special bonus in time for Christmas.

The School Board met Tuesday to approve a one-time payment to employees of 1.2% of their contract amount, with a cap of $1,000. The bonuses will be paid Dec. 17.

The board approved the administration's proposal by a 6-0 vote. Board member Jennifer Faddis was absent.

The average bonus will be about $670 and will cost the district $1.6 million, according to Deputy Superintendent Janet Schwanhausser. The district has about 2,300 employees.

The bonus is in recognition of the "exceptional effort" of all staff members during this pandemic, Schwanhausser said. The district is in a good financial place, with revenue up $3.7 million and expenses up only $1.1 million over last year.

In addition, the board last week approved a guaranteed maximum price for construction of its 13th elementary school, which is set to open in fall 2022. The approved price was about $21 million, which is $2.7 million less than what was originally budgeted, Schwanhausser said.

Custodial costs are up about $500,000 this year because of an increase in the minimum wage and additional duties; however, expenses associated with substitute teachers are about 40% less than at this time last year, and the total savings in that category are projected to be $500,000 for the year, according to Schwanhausser.

The district's fund balance, with the cost of the bonus included, is expected to be $34.6 million when the fiscal year ends June 30.

Eric White, board president, said the effect of the bonus on the fund balance is minor, "But I think this to the individual teachers will be dramatic and a statement."

Pete Madsen, an English teacher at West High School, said the bonus came as great news to him and his wife, Miranda.

The Madsens, who live in Bella Vista, have five children ranging in age from 8 months to 10 years. They originally had been planning a simple Christmas this year, but the bonus may allow them to splurge a bit more on gifts for the kids, he said.

"This year has been a struggle, kind of like one blind turn after another, curveball after curveball," Madsen said. "I think I've grown a lot as a professional, but it's going to be a blessing to get a nod and a thank you, especially during the Christmas season."

The district's minimum salary for teachers this year is $46,633.

Dave Perozek can be reached at or on Twitter @NWADaveP.