Nogales Unified School District employees will see a $3,000 bonus hit their bank accounts next month, after student enrollment withstood the effects of the pandemic better than had been expected.

The NUSD Governing Board approved the payout at a meeting earlier this month.

Superintendent Fernando Parra said about 576 full-time employees were eligible for the bonus. That includes teachers, faculty and administrators, but part-time employees such as substitute teachers and on-call custodians aren’t eligible for the payment.

The district didn’t give raises last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic raised questions about funding going forward.

Parra said they budgeted for fiscal year 2020-2021 with the expectation that enrollment would drop by 8 percent. Student enrollment determines some of the funding that the district receives.

In the end, enrollment did dip, but only by 2.6 percent, Parra said.

The district didn’t see the dramatic enrollment drop-offs seen in some districts around Phoenix in part because there aren’t as many private and charter schools in the local area, according to Larry Frederick, vice president of the Professional Educators of Nogales, a union that represents NUSD teachers. That meant fewer other options for parents that might have taken their kids out of the local public schools.

Frederick added that federal stimulus payments had also helped shore up the district’s finances over the past year.

It all meant there was some cash left to distribute to the staff. Bonuses of $3,000 paid to 576 employees means a total payout of nearly $1.73 million.

“Fortunately we were good to do this one-time payment,” Parra said, “we’re extremely fortunate.”

“I’m grateful that we are getting the $3,000 bonus,” Frederick said. “That’s going to help, that will make a difference. That’s actually (larger) than some of the raises we’ve gotten in the past.”

He added that the across-the-board payout would mean more to employees on the lower end of the pay scale, compared to a percentage payment that would result in more money going to higher earners.

Frederick said that teachers weren’t expecting raises for the upcoming year, either, but he’d heard there could be further discussions about raises in coming months, when the financial picture for the year is clearer.

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