Steamboat Springs Attracting and retaining educators in Steamboat Springs has been an uphill battle due to the area's high cost of living, Steamboat Springs Middle School Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter said.
But the Steamboat Springs School Board's approval Monday of a new compensation package for certified and support employees may better position the district to compete for staff.
"The bottom line is that teachers will get more money sooner," said Buelter of the board's decision to compress the schedule for certified staff pay increases from 30 steps to 20 steps. "We need to hold them here, have them gain faster, which we hope will keep them here longer."
A first year, bachelor's degree teacher received a base salary of $32,101 under this year's salary schedule. A 30-step progression, with the completion of a master's degree, incrementally increases pay to $69,522.
The new policy, which goes into effect for the 2007-08 fiscal year, starts at $32,422 and caps pay at $71,804 during 20 steps.
"In five or six years from starting, we hope they'll start thinking, 'Wow, I'm making some money,'" Buelter added.
The district's collaborative bargaining team negotiated the compensation package. Superintendent Donna Howell said the package was approved by 159 of the 166 staff members who voted, while five people voted no. Two staff members abstained.
Team member Steve Schibline, who has represented support staff for 13 years, said Monday's vote is the culmination of many years of work and dialogue between the CBT and School Board.
"I think everyone is really pleased with the process," said Schibline, a district bus driver and lead custodian at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
Also on Monday, the School Board added $50,000 to the school district's one-time retirement plan.
The additional funds will be used to increase one-time retirement payments for certified and support staff who have been employed at least 18 years. Staff also can take advantage of a transitional retirement plan that allows them to contract for 10 additional days of work in the last three years of employment and be paid one-third of the eligible one-time payment.
"This is an issue that needs to be discussed philosophically," said Howell, who noted about 275 people would be affected by the compensation package. "Most districts are eliminating retirement plans."
Buelter said the plan is a small improvement to keep teachers working.
"Some plans encourage staff to retire," he said. "But we can't do that. It's too hard to find teachers. We have to keep them in."
Howell said the voters' approval of a $600,000 mill-levy override last fall was key to the $475,860 needed to improve staff salaries and other compensation.
Included in the $475,860 was $53,340 for a 2 percent market adjustment for support staff to offset increases in the area's cost of living. Certified staff received a 1 percent market adjustment, which added $55,730, while the compressed certified step schedule will add $198,000 in salaries.
"The mill levy override allowed us to do things we may not have been able to fund," said Howell. "We had some new players - new people - and we got together to fund, attract and retain staff with better salaries."