Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School Board on Saturday voted, 5-0, to accept the 2008-09 contracts for faculty and staff. Sporting a half-percent raise, a new insurance policy and incentives for further education for staff, the contracts stretched limited funds as far as they could, according to negotiators.
"It's a really grueling process because you have to spread out a limited amount of money to make everybody else happy," said Steve Schibline, a custodial supervisor and bus driver who was a member of the Steamboat Springs School District's collaborative bargaining team for 13 years before retiring last year.
"I have some mixed feelings, but I guess we got what we can get and what is going to work for everybody," he said of the negotiation, which sets salary and benefits for school district employees in the coming academic year.
Interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser said there was less money to work with in the negotiating process.
The school district earned about $100,000 less from interest rates in 2007-08 than expected. Coupled with stagnating enrollment, the district had fewer funds than were available in years past. Colorado school districts receive state funding on a per-pupil basis.
Smyser said the district expects to have five fewer students next year, but that number could change during the summer and through the beginning of next school year.
The district will receive state funding for next year based on enrollment October 1.
"The biggest disappointment was that there wasn't more money available from the state," said Barb Tuchlinsky, a media paraprofessional at the high school and current member of the negotiating team.
"After seeing the budget, it looks like that was all that was available," she said.
Strawberry Park physical education teacher and negotiating team member Sam Rush said she was pleased the district could maintain staff positions despite the budget trimming.
"Everybody's hurting financially. Every district," she said. "We're lucky to keep the positions we have considering the low budget."
One improvement Tuchlinsky was pleased to see pass was an incentive for support staff to continue their education.
"That's been my pet project for many years, so I'm pleased we at least have something. It was something the district could afford," she said.
The incentives range from 3 cents to 12 cents an hour - on top of a staff member's normal salary - per additional college credit, to be paid to the staff member in a lump sum at the end of each school year.
"It takes people who are at the support level and encourages them to advance their education so they don't become stale, and they become more professional in their jobs," Schibline said.
A new insurance policy with Anthem Insurance also will allow faculty and staff to choose between several coverage levels. The change will save the district money and may lead to even better coverage in the future, Tuchlinsky said.
Faculty and staff first approved the negotiated contracts May 29 with a 117-24 vote, with seven abstentions.
Last year, faculty and staff received an average raise of nearly 5 percent, plus an additional raise of 1 to 5 percent mid-year from above-expected enrollment.
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