Legislative action at the state capitol has paved the way for 4.6 percent salary increases for Delta County School District employees. As an added benefit, health insurance costs are holding steady and an increase in employee contributions to PERA, the state retirement system, won't take effect until July 2019.
The Delta County School Board was looking at more modest salary increases for both classified and certified staff members before state legislators approved the use of $150 million to "buy down" the negative factor, the difference between the current funding level and that established by Amendment 23.
Delta County's share of the one-time funding is $1,930,650, or an additional $454.46 per pupil. A portion of the funding must be shared with Vision Charter Academy and set aside for the Colorado Preschool Program, leaving a net of about $1.7 million.
Of the school district's $40.3 million budget, about $28.5 million, or 71 percent, is allocated for salaries and benefits.
The 2018-19 budget, which will not receive final approval until June, also dedicates funds to student/staff safety, which superintendent Caryn Gibson describes as a top priority.
District administrators recently met with Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee, Undersheriff Mark Taylor, and representatives from every law enforcement agency in the county to discuss security measures. Chief Luke Fedler, Delta Police Department, and Chief Dan Sanders, Cedaredge Police Department, also attended a school board work session last week.
The 2018-19 budget earmarks $10,000 for each of the 12 traditional school buildings in Delta County, to be used as the law enforcement agency in each community determines. Since his department is already short an officer, Chief Luke Fedler told school board members he would likely use the funding for overtime, to put officers into the schools on their days off.
Chief Sanders hopes to secure the backing of the Cedaredge Town Council to fund a full-time school resource officer.
"We're on the same page regarding the prevention of violence in the schools, but we're also on the same page with funding," he said. Cedaredge elementary, middle and high school students don't just come from town, he told the school board, so he hopes to secure additional support from Orchard City and Delta County.
Funds are also budgeted for panic buttons in the front offices and more secure entrances at every school. The school district is asking law enforcement to make recommendations for entryway improvements for every school building in their jurisdiction.
Building design is a big piece of the puzzle, Fedler and Sanders agreed, but locked entryways, surveillance cameras, buzzers and even school resource officers won't stop someone who's determined to get into the school.
Volunteer patrols and armed teachers were also discussed briefly, but didn't gain any traction.
"We want our parents and our community to feel our students and our staff are in a safe place," Gibson said. "We just need to step up our efforts."