Steamboat Springs With a landslide vote Wednesday, Steamboat Springs School District employees approved a salary package for the 2006-07 school year.
The 186-4 vote from teachers and support staff was the second time this school year that district employees have approved a salary package. On Oct. 20, district employees approved their salaries for 2005-06 -- well after the school year had begun, passing a package that went through numerous revisions. The original proposal was voted down in June 2005.
But this time, negotiations were much faster and smoother.
"We are very pleased that we have successfully completed negotiations prior to the end of the school year," Superintendent Donna Howell said in a statement from the district's collaborative bargaining team. "Our staff can begin their summer vacation knowing their salary and benefits for the 2006-07 school year."
Howell said the goal of the 2006-07 package is to make Steamboat Springs more competitive in the salary market with school districts of similar size. To that end, the package includes "market" salary increases of 2.5 or 3 percent for teachers -- depending on their level of education -- and as much as 3 percent for support staff.
"The market increase will result in our teacher and support staff salaries moving closer to the salaries of employees in comparative school districts," the statement read.
The package also includes an annual "step" increase for employees who are returning to the district. The step increases depend on employees' length of service and level of post-secondary education. The step increases average 2.25 percent for teachers and 4.2 percent for support staff.
Combined, the market and step increases create an average 4.7 percent salary increase for teachers and an average 4.8 percent increase for support staff.
The total salary increases will cost the school district $501,485, according to the collaborative bargaining team documents. Insurance increases, including boosts to health and dental insurance premiums, will cost the district an additional $207,000.
The package also includes a new schedule and compensation plan for "extra duty" work, such as coaching an athletic team or leading an extracurricular club.
The Steamboat Springs School Board is scheduled to take final action on the approved package -- and increased costs -- at its meeting Monday.
District employees credited a strong effort from the bargaining team for completing the negotiations before the end of the school year.
Steamboat Springs Middle School science teacher Brad Kindred is president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association, which represents more than 100 district employees. He applauded the work of the bargaining team, which used an "interest-based" negotiation model designed to foster open dialogue and a trusting, positive environment for discussions.
"I hope that's a model we can continue to use," Kindred said.
The bargaining team began discussions about the 2006-07 salary package in January. The 15-member team is a cross-section of district employees, including teachers, school administrators, athletic coaches and a custodian.
"I really respect the group that put (the proposal) together," middle school counselor Margi Briggs-Casson said. "Because I trusted the group and the proposal seemed reasonable, I voted for it."
There were five abstentions from Wednesday's vote, and 195 employees cast ballots.