About 200 district staff members attended the Jan. 19 meeting of the Delta County School Board to show their support for a teacher-generated proposal to reinstate the salary increases which have been suspended for several years.
The Delta County Coordinating Council, which represents the majority of the teachers in the district, is urging the school board to retroactively reinstate the salaries to the point at which they were frozen in the 2009-2010 school year.
Their request was reinforced by Scott Siettmann, a member of the Delta County Education Association, during the school board meeting. Both point out that the school district has not only weathered the funding shortfalls of the last few years, it has managed to more than quadruple its fund balance to more than $4 million.
"Because of the district's conservative fiscal management and the growth in our unrestricted reserve funds, this might be an appropriate time to compensate our teachers for their hard work and willingness to work cooperatively within budget constraints," Coordinating Council president Paul Beller stated in a memo to school board members. "If our district wishes to retain and attract high-quality teaching staff, we believe it is in everyone's best interest — students, teachers and community — to move forward with such salary advancements as can be afforded at this time."
Siettmann's comments were more direct. He believes staff members have borne the brunt of the school district's funding problems. He said he personally lost around $1,500 in compensation last year, and this year he's making almost $3,000 less. Plus, staff members are paying more for their health insurance and, as parents, they're shouldering the same costs for activities and transportation as other families in the school district.
He blames the salary freeze on a "consistent lack of planning on the part of the district."
"Other expenses come first and then staff compensation becomes merely what is left over," he said. "The past four years with the absence of a cost-of-living adjustment and the more recent salary step freeze sends the message that staff experience, years of service and staff compensation are negotiable expenses, showing that staff is not the priority with the district. It's time to start treating staff compensation as an investment, not an expense."
Siettmann says it's also clear that school district employees need additional help when it comes to salary negotiations and staff relations with the district office and school board. He urged districtwide support for the installment of Delta County Education Association — along with its affiliates, the Colorado Education Association and the National Education Association — as the negotiating body for the staff. He said there is nothing to fear from a professional organization that seeks to improve student education, ensure fair compensation for all staff, and develop positive relations with district administrators so staff members can speak their minds without fear of repercussion.
A step is a move across the salary schedule which results in a pay increase for each additional year of experience. Teachers can also increase their salaries by earning college credits and/or advanced degrees. It's estimated that each step costs the school district $460,000.
About $1 million of the fund balance will be used to balance the 2011-2012 budget. A portion must also be kept in reserve. Superintendent Mike McMillan likens the fund balance to a savings account. "When it gets to the point that you have to have to use your savings just to pay your monthly bills, your savings account declines. If you have other unexpected bills during the month, you will continue to use more of your savings account."
He has cautioned against the "cumulative effect" of using district savings, which could reduce the fund balance by over half over the next two years.
Still, he said, salary increases should be a priority for all staff members, including classified personnel and administration.blog comments powered by Disqus