Steamboat Springs A few claps from the audience welcomed salary adjustment increases for all Steamboat Springs School District staff members effective Aug. 1.
At Monday night's school board meeting, board members approved, for the 2001-2002 school year, that certified and support staff would receive a 6.35-percent increase in compensation, while maxed out certified and support staff would receive a 5.25-percent increase.
"Without a regular source of additional substantial income, we can't do 6.35 percent year in and year out," school board Treasurer Tom Sharp said.
The equation agreed upon by school board members states that staff will receive a step plus a certain percentage to equal the cost of living adjustment plus 2.25 percent, to equal 6.35 percent.
The maxed out staff will receive a cost of living adjustment plus 1.15 percent to recognize that maxed out staff did not receive a cost of living adjustment for the 2000-2001 school year.
Steamboat Springs Education Association President Mike Smith said he and a small group of teacher representatives came to that formula understanding it would be for one year only.
Comments from a few collective bargaining team members voiced concern that they were not notified of the new formula and had no part in creating it.
Smith took responsibility for the lack of communication but said negotiations needed to be expedited in order for teachers to know their salaries for next year.
Superintendent Cyndy Simms said the support and certified staff will vote within two weeks for the equation to be adopted into this year's budget.
"I'm happy with it because it's a reasonable median," Smith said of the agreed adjustment.
The same agenda item included a multiyear competitive compensation plan to be ready for a vote by Nov. 1, which the board agreed upon.
While the agenda item also included an adjustment to the Steamboat Springs High School athletics director's pay, Sharp motioned that it be tabled until after executive session Monday night.
Because the salary adjustment was approved only as of Monday night, Finance Director Dale Mellor did not have the opportunity to include the newly adopted salary adjustment into the budget.
"This is just a preliminary budget which needs to be amended by Oct. 15," Mellor said to the board.
Decrease in cash flow
Steamboat Springs School Board members approved the preliminary 2001-2002 budget with the understanding that a new salary adjustment could be factored into the numbers if the staff votes to approve the adjustment.
The preliminary budget that Mellor brought to a June 11 study session reports that the total revenues calculated for 2001-2002 are $14.4 million, with expenditures totaling $14.7 million.
Therefore, the cash flow is expected to decrease $334,045 or a 5.58-percent decrease to have a cash flow of $5.3 million.
Mellor stated in the preliminary budget that increases in salaries, health insurance and property insurance have created the decrease in the amount of cash flow.
As stated in the June 11 preliminary budget, payroll increases are expected to increase by $733,560, increasing salaries by 3.83 percent, and employee health insurance will rise by 24 percent.
A team of auditors told district officials it is necessary to keep about $5 million in cash flow because of the yearly property-tax paycheck to the district.
The district expects a property-tax revenue of $11.6 million this year.
But because the district is only paid once a year, it needs to budget strictly to keep enough money in the bank to last one year.
The state finance formula, set by the state Legislature, increased the Steamboat Springs School District's per-pupil funding to $6,141, a 4.65-percent increase over last year's $5,868.
Mellor said the enrollment is supposed to decrease from 1,944 students to 1,926 students this year, as of June 11.
Mellor said this is partly due to the large graduating class from the high school.
Because the district still will give state and federal dollars to the North Routt Charter School, the district does not consider that a loss of revenue when children transfer to that school from a Steamboat school.
Increasing buying power
The 2001-2002 budget may see another amendment if a cost of living adjustment is added to the November ballot and approved by the people in Routt County.
School board members agreed Monday night to resolve that the superintendent further investigate support for submitting a supplemental cost of living factor to the voters and have a report back by the Aug. 13 school board study session.
Steamboat Springs could reap partial benefits of the newly approved Senate Bill 129, which authorizes school districts to go to the local voters to obtain a supplemental cost of living adjustment.
Sharp presented information to the board and the public that Steamboat Springs complies with the Denver/Boulder Consumer Price Index.
He said when resort towns such as Steamboat Springs have to comply with much lower cost of living numbers, teachers' purchasing power dwindles.
The Denver/Boulder CPI in December was 4.1 percent.
But because small, resort towns don't have the power to compile that information, Senate Bill 129 may make living in Steamboat a little less strenuous on the teachers.
"Compared over the last eight years, purchasing power for teachers has been dead," Sharp said.
Sharp voiced apprehension to the audience that other issues may be on the ballot this November but assured the public that voting on this increased cost of living may be detrimental to purchasing power and future residency.
"We're going to need active support of every teacher in the district," Sharp said, adding that friends, family and others need to collaborate for the state Legislature to increase the cost of living factor.
"I'm in agreement with Tom. Teachers need to support it and back it," Smith said.
"We trying to keep teachers and attract them," said SSEA member Brad Kindred. "It's pretty scary. The national teacher shortage is hitting us now, and it will hit us hard in five to six years."
Simms said if the issue is put on the November ballot, property owners could see an increase in property tax to provide for the cost of living adjustment.