School board votes 3-2 for employee raises
Steamboat Springs — A standing-room-only crowd of more than 75 people turned out Thursday to see the Steamboat Springs Board of Education revote on a proposed employee compensation package.
The package was ultimately approved on a 3-2 vote, with board members Joey Andrew and Roger Good voting against, but not before board discussion and several tense public comments.
District teachers singled out Andrew and Good, saying they were wasting district time and resources by delaying a vote on the package and bullying fellow board members.
“In my opinion, there’s a much larger issue here than a balanced budget,” said high school teacher Kyle Paolantonio.
Thursday’s special meeting was called earlier this week by board President Margie Huron, who last week recused herself from voting on the employee compensation package after audience members said they felt she had a conflict of interest because her daughter sits on the district bargaining team.
Following Huron’s recusal, the board voted 2-2 on the package, leading to a failed motion.
School district attorney Mike Holloran wrote in a letter to the board last Thursday that, legally, Huron had no conflict.
The board heard from Holloran about his letter during Thursday’s meeting, then quickly moved on to a discussion of whether to approve the compensation package.
Andrew and Good have remained opposed to the proposed staff compensation package, which includes step raises for eligible employees. With health and retirement costs, the increases will total $670,000 in additional costs for the district next year.
The district’s current proposed budget, with the approval of the compensation package, is $230,000 in the red next year.
The board is scheduled to hold a first reading of the budget Monday and a second reading and approval later in June.
Two audience members Thursday implored the board and audience members to be financially responsible and not approve a package that would lead to deficit spending.
“What (employees) deserve isn’t the question,” said parent Ken Mauldin. “It’s what the district can afford.”
Andrew said he wanted assurance the district would have a clear path to a balanced budget for next year.
Board member Sam Rush, who served as the board representative to the district’s Collaborative Bargaining Team, said the team had agreed to spend the summer and fall studying the district’s salary schedules and potentially revising them to better reflect raises the district can afford.
Rush said she believed the group could make changes that would lead to a balanced budget for 2017-18.
“I think this team will rise to the challenge,” Rush said. “I feel pretty hopeful.”
Rush said that, considering the district began this fiscal year with a large deficit as part of the budget, significant progress has already been made.
The district budget includes $515,000 in deficit spending for the current fiscal year.
“I think it’s always the intent of this board to reach a balanced budget,” Huron said. “We are making progress, and we intend to keep making progress.”
Audience members erupted in cheers and applause following the board’s 3-2 vote.
“I’m pleased that the school board was able to allow all members to vote and follow legal process,” said Carol Harris, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association and a member of the bargaining team. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
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