Steamboat Springs Attracting and retaining educators in Steamboat Springs has been an uphill battle due to the area's high cost of living. But the Steamboat Springs School Board's decision Monday night to set aside more than $200,000 in funds to increase teacher salaries may better position the district to compete for staff.
"You have a sizeable surplus here," said Dale Mellor, director of finances for the Steamboat Springs School District. Mellor updated the School Board on the district's 2007-08 budget, which must be adopted Oct. 8.
"The (enrollment) count is about 2,045 students, which is an increase of about 75 kids from the budget last year," Mellor said. "We budgeted about 15 students in June, and now we are at about 75. That gives us about $403,000 in increased revenue."
With the gain of each student, the district receives about $8,200 in per-pupil operating revenue from the state Department of Education. Mellor said a collaborative bargaining team, or CBT, agreement dictates that funds generated after final enrollment counts must be returned to district staff.
He proposed a 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase to all employees, regardless of what step the employee is on the salary schedule.
"That would cost about $210,000 to give everyone a 1.5 percent increase and this would be above and beyond what CBT gave last year," he said. "That would put us at a $219,000 deficit."
The school district must include the $348,490 buyout of former Superintendent Donna Howell - a total cost that includes additional taxes and fees - in its expenditures, despite having previously set the buyout money aside.
Mellor said money set aside to buy out Howell will not be available for several months, so the payout will be initially paid through the district's general fund. The district will be able to recoup the money later in the school year.
"You've got the money set aside, so if you take it out, with the increase in revenue from the students, you have the money to do this," he said of the staff salary increases.
The School Board did not vote on how the excess money would be specifically divided, but voted unanimously to authorize Mellor to earmark the money for staff pay.
The salary increase would not be a one-time payment, and would instead be included on the salary scale.
Board Member Jeff Troeger said attracting and retaining staff at the lower end of the pay scale is more difficult than at the top, and asked fellow board members about the possibility of offering pay increases to select staff.
"I like the equity of 1 percent across (the board)," he said. "But we have a situation where we can't hire people and we can't hold onto them : 1 percent when you are (at the top of the salary scale) isn't very much, compared to 1 percent at the bottom of the salary schedule."
Mellor said how to allocate the additional state revenues is up to the School Board, but he needed permission to set the money aside.
"There are no benefits of not setting this money aside," he said. "You will have some very upset people. We have the extra students, we have the extra revenue, so why not do something?"
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