Steamboat School Board approves raises

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— The Steamboat Springs School District will award $1 million in raises to its employees during the next two school years.

On Monday night, the School Board unanimously approved the salary and benefits upgrade package that will grant all district employees a 1 percent salary increase next school year and give all qualified certified and classified staff members step increases during each of the next two school years.

The agreement also will raise the salaries of about 50 teachers with bachelor’s degrees and 50 support staff members, including bus drivers, custodians and teacher aides, to match the average pay being offered for their job classifications at nine comparable school districts across Colorado.

The proposal was praised by the School Board and the district employees who negotiated for months to make the package a reality.

“We all appreciate your support tonight,” Steamboat Springs Education Association President Babette Dickson told the board after the vote.

The raises were supported by 84 percent of district staff who voted on the proposal.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said it has been more than a decade since the school district has offered teachers a salary package that extends beyond one year. He said the two-year term of the package approved Monday will eliminate the tension he said would have accompanied another round of salary negotiations next school year, especially at a time when the district is preparing to implement a new state-mandated evaluation system for its teachers and principals.

“It’s an investment in our staff,” Meeks said. “We feel good about it. And financially, the district feels like we can afford it. Having this two-year agreement creates some financial stability for our employees.”

The salary and benefits plan will cost the district $578,891 next school year and $442,567 during the 2013-14 school year.

District Finance Director Dale Mellor said the raises will be funded by the district’s annual fund balance, which is projected to total $7.5 million next school year after the first year of raises are doled out.

Because of budget restrictions, Mellor said the school district wasn’t able to offer a step increase to its employees last school year for the first time since 1993. Instead, the School Board approved a 2 percent base salary increase for all district employees at a cost of $272,523.

Under the plan approved Monday night, district staff will see their salaries increase by an average of 3.5 percent next year and by 2.7 percent the following year. The step increases will cost a total of $359,120 each year.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the board approved the district’s 2012-13 budget. But before it got final approval, the board spent about 45 minutes debating the planned restructuring of the district’s fifth grade band program. Citing an abundance of complaints from parents and community members about the elimination of the existing band teacher and transition of teaching responsibilities to existing music teachers at a cost savings of $16,000, Board President Brian Kelly and members Denise Connelly and Rebecca Williams voted to set aside $16,000 next school year for the schools to spend on the program if they think it isn’t successful under the new structure.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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