Re-1 teachers, staff members to get bonuses |

Re-1 teachers, staff members to get bonuses

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Full-time teachers and staff in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 will each receive a one-time stipend this year of $1,500, using funds from the $4.8 million mill levy override approved by district voters in November.

Part-time employees will also receive a bonus of between $750 and $1,200, depending on the percentage of time they work. The plan was approved by the Re-1 school board at its regular meeting held at Basalt High School on Wednesday.

It’s possible the board could approve another bonus for employees of between $250 and $500 later this spring, using some of the remaining funds that are available for this school year.

Looking to the 2012-13 school year and beyond, the district may also reinstate pay scale step increases using part of the extra mill levy funds.

Wages in the district have been frozen for the past two years amid state funding cuts. District employees also took an across-the-board 1 percent pay cut for the current school year.

After making a total of more than $5 million in cuts over the past two years, the district earned voter support in the fall election for an additional $4.8 million in yearly property taxes to help make up the difference.

“I see this as something that’s real impactful to staff,” school board member Richard Stettner said of the pay bonus for this year. He argued for an even larger bonus.

“I’m going to fight for as much as we can do, and still be responsible with this money,” he said.

The board was presented with a range of scenarios that would give teachers and staff some degree of relief from the earlier cuts.

Four options for a flat bonus amount were on the table, ranging from $500 to $2,000 for full-time employees.

The board settled on the $1,500 amount on a 3-1 vote, with board member Daniel Biggs opposed. Board president Matt Hamilton abstained from the vote, since his wife is a teacher in Carbondale.

“This is a range that we were given to consider,” Biggs said. “That doesn’t mean we need to shoot for the highest option.

“I just don’t think we’re out of the woods yet,” Biggs said of the possibility of further cuts in state education funding for next year. “We still need to hang on to some of that reserve.”

A handful of teachers and staff who attended the meeting applauded the board decision. But they emphasized that longer-term wage considerations need to be made as well.

“I talk to a lot of teachers who are hanging on by their fingernails and can’t get financing for their homes,” Basalt Middle School teacher Ryan Bradley said. “There are people who have been in this district for a long time who are close to leaving because they are not able to make their mortgages.”

School board member Bob Johnson said the stipend should serve as an “economic punch,” and be seen as a good-faith move by the district toward reinstating the salary schedule.

The one-time bonus will use a little more than $1 million of the estimated $4.2 million in unbudgeted override funds that are available for the current school year.

The school board also agreed Wednesday to spending an additional $1.37 million from those funds in the coming weeks and months to reinstate some of the previous budget cuts.

Included in the funding will be:

• $500,000 for new purchases of curriculum and student intervention materials.

• $148,000 for additional instructional staff time for instructional intervention, including after-school tutoring, Saturday school and summer school classes.

• $231,135 for building materials and supplies budgets.

• $159,184 to hire back four of the 14 custodian positions that were cut, and to provide overtime to cover after-school and weekend activities. The four custodians will be assigned to elementary schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, but be available to work in other school buildings as needed.

• $300,000 for deferred building maintenance and equipment replacement in several district school buildings.

• $22,000 for teacher and staff development.

The board decisions leave approximately $1.8 million in unbudgeted mill levy override funds for the current year. Some of those funds could still be allocated before the end of the school year, or may be carried over into the reserve fund for future years.

Also at the Wednesday meeting, the Re-1 board approved the firm of Hazard, Young and Attea to assist the school district in conducting a search for a new superintendent. The board earlier this month voted 3-2 to end the contract of current Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall after the current year.

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