Steamboat Springs School Board approves teacher and classified staff contracts for 2015-16
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs School Board voted unanimously Monday to approve a Collaborative Bargaining Team contract package ultimately negotiated last week and approved by the majority of staff Friday.
The package includes updates to staff leave and other policies and provides a 0.75 percent raise for licensed and classified staff and step increases to those eligible, among a few other changes.
Of 191 staff members who voted on the package, 28 voted against it, or 14.6 percent, a higher percentage than the previous three years, according to school board agenda archives.
Staff members at Monday’s board meeting offered some insight into staff concerns about the package, including tensions between administration and staff cited by one teacher.
“Morale is not that great,” said Grady Turner, Soda Creek Elementary kindergarten teacher.
Turner and another teacher mentioned a desire to revisit which districts are used when comparing the salaries of employees to determine fair market wages.
“I want to make sure we also compared with other school [districts] accredited with distinction,” Turner said.
School board President Roger Good said in March that superintendent salaries in districts accredited with distinction were a factor when determining the salary for Superintendent Brad Meeks, who received a 9.4 percent base salary increase in late February.
The increase in salaries for teachers and classified staff will cost the district an additional $521,000 next year, by far the largest forecast expenditure change in the district’s budget, which was also approved Monday.
Additional increases in district expenditures include a 13.9 percent increase in employee insurance costs, additional elementary and high school staffing and enhancements like a half-time robotics teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School and two employee sabbaticals.
The increases are partially offset by the revenue gained from a potential 50 new students next year, a predicted $27,000 increase in property tax revenue and an increase in funding from the Education Fund Board.
Despite the increase in revenue, the district is left with a $390,000 deficit budget, which will reduce reserves from $7.8 million to $7.4 million. Multiple board members shared concerns about dipping into reserves and the desire to have future discussions about what is an appropriate level of reserves to keep on hand.
The board voted 4-1 to adopt the budget, with board member Scott Bideau voting against it.
Soda Creek second-grade teacher Cindy Gantick shared criticism of the board, or administration, for allowing the public to link teacher raises to the deficit budget.
“No teacher wants to feel like because of their 0.75 percent raise, deficit spending is on our shoulders,” Gantick said. “I don’t feel like we’re the cause of deficit spending, and I think the board needs to own up to some of the other places where there could be cost savings. Everything needs to be on the table.”
Good acknowledged that numerous factors play a role in the budget and the decision to deficit spend.
“No single snowflake caused this,” Good said.
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