School board considers employee raises during budget discussion | SteamboatToday.com

School board considers employee raises during budget discussion

The Steamboat Springs School District administration offices at 325 Seventh St.

— Nearing the end of the annual budget planning process, Steamboat Springs School District leaders are again weighing employee raises alongside a desire to achieve a balanced budget.

The district's Collaborative Bargaining Team is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to hammer out a proposed employee compensation plan for 2016-17, with options including full step increases or salary percentage increases for various employee groups.

When CBT reaches an agreement, it will be presented to the Board of Education for approval along with the 2016-17 budget.

District Finance Director Mark Rydberg took the temperature of board members during a meeting Monday, asking whether they were comfortable supporting any of five different sample options for raises, ranging from a 1 percent salary increase to step increases — about a 2.6 percent raise on average — or the possibility of new steps for some staff members.

CBT in April discussed the possibility of creating new steps to give salary increases to some employees who have "topped out" on the district's salary schedule.

District leaders have made a number of reductions already to help even out the 2016-17 budget that begins $450,000 in the red because of deficit spending and other factors during the current year.

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"We've made a lot of progress. We had a big hole that we were in," Rydberg said. "We didn't slash programs, athletics is the same. We've made some minor adjustments."

Currently, the district is projecting about $242,000 in revenue over expenses for 2016-17 before considering potential raises, which could range in cost from as little $175,000 for 1 percent salary increases for all employees to $490,000 for step increases and new steps for certain groups of employees.

Based on current budget projections, a step increase for all employees — teachers, classified staff and administrators — would lead to about $200,000 in deficit spending.

Rydberg said he did expect the budget to ebb and flow some over the summer when employee turnover typically happens, and he noted that step increases are closely tied to employee morale.

Board members Sam Rush, Margie Huron and Michelle Dover said they would be supportive of a proposal that included step increases, while Roger Good and Joey Andrew said they would be more comfortable with a proposal that included salary increases of between 1 and 1.5 percent.

Last year employees received step increases as part of a compensation package that increased district costs by a little over $500,000 — a similar amount to what the board of education agreed to deficit spend for the current year.

Steamboat Springs Education Association members last spring told district leaders they were concerned with staff compensation being discussed so late in the year, particularly during a year when deficit spending is considered, because it creates a perception that employee raises are the direct cause of deficit spending rather than one component of the overall budget.

SSEA members have continued to bring up that concern during CBT meetings this year.

CBT meets from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district office board room, 325 Seventh St.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow