Steamboat School Board approves restoring raises, delays staff bonus decision

With a $450,000 budget surplus, the board asked administrators to present more information on what else the district may need before approving bonuses

The Steamboat Springs Board of Education unanimously approved restoring administrator raises that were cut last summer but delayed a decision on whether to use other surplus money to give staff a bonus at its meeting Monday.

The district has the surplus because of higher than expected property tax revenue and less spending this year. A $500,000 budget shortfall was expected last summer, but the district’s financial situation has rebounded with $450,000 left unspent.

The board broke up the spending decision into parts, first discussing the restoration of wages for administrators and then addressing the issue of staff bonuses. District Financial Director Mark Rydberg said the money to support these raises was recurring, but the money for a potential bonus was not.

Administrators were initially given a 4% raise for the 2020-21 school year, while teachers were awarded a 6.5% raise. Traditionally, the district would have made these raises the same, but administrator raises took the hit when the district triaged its budget amid the pandemic. The raise includes all district administrators except for the superintendent, who is on his own contract.

The board unanimously approved restoring the wages before delving into the more controversial subject of bonuses for staff. Board member Katy Lee recused herself from the vote, because she has served as a substitute for the district this year and would likely qualify for the bonus.

The proposed $1,000 bonus would be paid to about 350 staff members for their work over the past year, which fits within the district’s surplus, Rydberg said. This one-time money comes from Proposition EE, which was approved by Colorado voters in November and increased taxes on nicotine products, he said.

The board was divided, with board members Kim Brack and Chresta Brinkman in favor of the bonuses and Lara Craig and Kelly Latterman not necessarily opposed to the proposal but wanting more information about what else the money could be spent on.

“I feel like I cannot really make this decision until I know exactly how we could use these funds in the most fiscally responsible way,” Craig said.

Latterman said she wants to see a prioritized list of items teachers and staff may need in the classroom as well as any capital investments the district could address with these funds before making a decision.

The district is anticipating another $1.2 million in one-time money next year as well, Rydberg said, which would give the district ample funding to address these needs in the future.

“We have more than enough to replenish, refill any missing things,” Rydberg said. “I am very comfortable with this; we are not ourselves in fiscal jeopardy. I think this is the right thing to do, but we can certainly come up with a list.”

Brack and Brinkman both said they support giving staff the bonuses.

“I feel like our greatest asset right now is the retention of our staff, and we have an opportunity to be able to support them, and I wholeheartedly agree with this decision,” Brinkman said.

Some parents spoke during public comment saying the board should not be considering bonuses for staff when there are students struggling academically, and the money should be spent on academic recovery.

The board unanimously voted to delay the decision on bonuses until its next meeting May 17. Craig also requested a board presentation about what academic recovery measures the district is taking now and over the summer to help students.

“I want to support teachers, and I agree that they have done an amazing job this year,” Craig said. “I just want to be armed with all the information before I make a big decision like this.”

Graduation update

Steamboat Springs High School will have a traditional graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021. Students and staff will be seated on the football field, and the event will feature performances from the band and choir.

The approved plan allows up to 1,500 people, which will give each graduate six tickets to give to friends and family.

“Really, we are able to incorporate all of the components of a traditional graduation,” said Dennis Alt, high school principal. “We are really excited about where we are heading with this.”

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