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Teachers and other employees of the Douglas County School District will get a 2 percent raise in the next school year, an increase interim Superintendent Erin Kane called “grossly inadequate” and which several school board members voted against, saying it wasn’t enough.
“A 2 percent increase is just keeping pace with other districts, or falling behind,” said school board member Steven Peck, who voted against the measure. “And I would submit that it’s not enough.”
The vote came at the June 6 Board of Education meeting at which the board reviewed the district’s projected $578 million budget for the 2017-18 school year. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 20.
The budget focused on hiring and retaining educational staff and maintaining student programs, Kane said.
But the budget does not address aging infrastructure or new capital needs.
Kane said there wasn’t enough money to address capital projects outside of maintaining the current infrastructure.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Kane said while crossing two fingers. “The tighter the budget, the higher the risk.”
The district does have emergency contingency funds in place to address unforeseen capital projects — such as damage to buildings or utilities — that would affect student learning or safety.
In 2015, The Long Range Planning Committee — a group of community members and parents charged by the district with studying its capital needs — put the price tag at $275.1 million for current and future projects over five years. The committee identified major areas of need as facility reinvestment at $133.6 million, technology at $53 million and new construction to accommodate growth at $38.8 million.
District officials did find ways to save about $21 million compared to the previous year, thanks to a central administration reorganization that saved $14 million in 2016-17 and will shave off $7 million in 2017-18. Those included eliminating the positions of the chief growth and development officer, chief academic officer, chief operating officer and chief community relations officer positions. The savings also includes unspent department carryover and money saved from the reorganization of the professional development and the World Class Education departments.
“The good news is we saved money this year,” Kane said. “The bad news is, we’re going to need it.”
The district will receive $7,389 per pupil from the state — $244 more per student than last school year. The increase is projected to generate $11.5 million, but will be offset by a projected decrease of $4 million caused by declining enrollment.
For 2016-17, DCSD’s enrollment was 67,470, up from 66,896 in 2015-16, according to the Colorado Department of Education. However, district officials say some elementary schools are experiencing declining enrollments.
The district has projected the following schools will be under-utilized in the 2017-18 school year: Pine Lane Elementary, Mountain View Primary and Ponderosa High School in Parker; Arrowwood Elementary in Highlands Ranch; Larkspur Elementary; and Mesa Middle School in Castle Rock.
The board voted 4-3 to approve the 2 percent salary increase forallemployees, which is projected to cost $6.5 million.
Board members James Geddes, Anne-Marie Lemieux, Judith Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn voted for the increase, while Peck, David Ray and Wendy Vogel voted against it, pushing instead for at least a 3 percent raise.
Teacher pay has long been an issue in Douglas County with concerns continuing to mount that teachers are leaving for higher wages in other districts. Longterm, the idea of a new tax measure is being explored to increase teacher salaries, but in the immediate future, the budget is tight, Kane said.
Although Kane called the increase “grossly inadequate,” she said it is what the district can afford.
Peck suggested looking for other redundancies in the budget to find more money.
Ray suggested going without a $3.2 million device refresh from the technology budget as a way of finding more funding.
“We cannot afford to have the gap widen between us and other districts when it comes to paying our teachers,” Ray said.
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