Hayden Hayden school officials may seek a tax increase to make their teachers' salaries more competitive with others in the area.
Hayden School Board members said the tax increase is necessary because the district's budget is already as lean as possible. "There's no more fat to cut," board member Brian Hoza said.
Tonight, Hoza and the rest of the board will consider putting a property tax increase on the November ballot to raise an additional $150,000 in revenue.
To raise the tax rate, Hayden must seek permission for a tax override from its voters. That tax override cannot fund more than a 20-percent increase in the district's budget.
Preliminary estimates are the proposed tax increase would cost the owner of a $l25,000 home an additional $20.76 a year. A $125,000 vacant or commercial property would be taxed an additional $65.81 a year.
New teachers in Hayden earn about $24,000. By comparison, teachers in Steamboat Springs start at $25,926, and last fall, Steamboat voters approved a tax increase to pay for cost of living adjustment for its teachers.
"We are the lowest (in the area)," Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader said. "We need to be more competitive."
Confirmation by the board tonight would give Mader the go-ahead to begin the process of seeking the tax override.
Mader said the district loses too many teachers to districts with more generous salary offers. Often, they leave after gaining two or three years of valuable experience in Hayden.
"We don't want to just train teachers and two or three years later have another district take them away," he said.
Valley Elementary Principal Mike Luppes said he knows of 10 or more teachers who left the Hayden School District for Steamboat Springs. College graduates often get better offers than $24,000, he said.
"As the person responsible for doing the hiring, it's definitely a factor," Luppes said.
A number of teachers who do not live in Hayden continue to teach in the school district, but convincing new teachers to come to the district is not so easy, he said.
"Money is not the only object," he said, "but it is definitely a factor."
As neighboring districts raise their salaries, Hayden will need to take some action to hold on to its teachers while recruiting new ones, he said.
"There's a difference between being with them and falling way behind," Luppes said. "We would like to keep up with them."
Board member Patty Bruchez said the tax override presents the best solution for a district that needs money to be competitive with other district's salary increases.
Time is of the essence, she said, with budgets and salaries to be figured for the next school year.
"We know we are coming down to the wire," she said.