Analysis: Pay system to cost

District needs extra $600K annually to fund evaluation-based system

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The Steamboat Springs School District will need to find an additional $600,000 in revenue per year for the next decade to fund an evaluation-based pay system for its employees, according to a financial analysis by a Denver auditor.

The analysis, presented Monday at a special School Board meeting, shed some light on a question yet to be answered in the quest to complete the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay system: Just how much will it cost?

There's never been much doubt KSBP would cost the district more than the traditional salary schedule, which pays teachers based on longevity and educational attainment, said Mike Smith, a high school teacher who has spent the past couple of years working with other teachers and administrators on developing the system.

KSBP, with an aim to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and support staff, is different from traditional teacher pay systems in that it pays teachers based on their performance in the classroom rather than how many years they've taught. Under the proposed system, teachers will be evaluated largely through classroom observations and detailed portfolios. District teachers and a former School Board approved a pay schedule for the still-developing KSBP system several years ago, and a committee has been working on its evaluation system ever since.

Doug Rose, the auditor who performed the analysis, said implementing KSBP will result in moderate cost increases for the first 10 years of implementation before the system reaches its "stable state," in which KSBP costs -- namely salary -- will remain steady into the foreseeable future.

Those first 10 years will have the biggest impact on the district, peaking with an $850,000 increase over current costs during the 2007-08 school year. The average annual increase over current salary costs for those 10 initial years is estimated to be $608,377.

At its stable state, the system will cost the district about $320,000, or 2 percent, more each year than the current salary system, but revenue will have increased over the preceding decade to exceed the cost increase, according to the analysis.

Rose's analysis is based on a number of assumptions, including a stable pupil count for the district, a total district certified staff of 147.67 employees and an identical number of support staff hours.

Rose's presentation stated that reasonable assumptions are "an imperfect guide to the future." He also confidently predicted "some estimate reported here will turn out to be incorrect."

Teachers, administrators and School Board members at Monday's presentation said they were pleased to see an objective, outside analysis that put numbers and dollar amounts into the KSBP discussion.

But not everyone was pleased with the assumptions Rose made for KSBP to reach a stable state, especially that staff turnover rates would need to be higher than current rates for costs to remain steady.

"It seems the only way you can make this function is with a high turnover rate," Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis said. A high turnover rate would be in contrast to the integrity of KSBP, which aims to help the district recruit and retain high quality employees and also to provide them with professional development opportunities, he said.

A higher turnover rate to keep costs steady is one possible solution to achieve a stable state with the KSBP system -- and one solution School Board President Paula Stephenson said she doesn't like.

"I don't want to see a higher turnover rate," Stephenson said. "We're going to have to figure out another way around this, another way for it to work."

In the meantime, the School Board, which plans to discuss the analysis at its Monday meeting, must determine how it will find additional revenue to pay for the progressive salary system, Superintendent Donna Howell said.

"That's the piece the board's going to have to deal with -- where do we get these dollars," Howell said.

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