East Grand OKs major pay raises | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand OKs major pay raises

Teachers can expect to see bump for 2021-22 school year

East Grand schoolteachers will be seeing a 15% raise for the upcoming school year.

A big part of that raise will come from the mill levy override passed by voters last year. The override gave the district $1 million more to spend on teacher and staff pay. The school board agreed Tuesday to contribute an additional $633,590 from the district’s general fund for the raises.

With these changes, the district’s budget for the 2021-22 school year conservatively plans for a $620,691 deficit. The budget has not been finalized, and numbers will be more certain in June.

Staff said that they felt the dip into reserves would be doable, as the district has nearly $5.7 million in savings. The deficit would still leave $5 million after the 2021-22 school year. Last year, East Grand pulled $320,116 from its reserves.

If the district saw no growth in its revenues, it would be able to maintain current spending for seven years before running out of funds.

“Yes, it brings down the reserves, but we still have healthy reserves,” Business Manager Kelly Yaeger said.

The change raises the base pay for a first-year teacher with no additional education from $37,174 to $43,000. For classified staff, the lowest paid entry-level employee — a food service worker — will make $15.60 an hour, up from $13.40.

While some board members felt that the increase was drastic, others pointed out that the district is behind in fair compensation for teachers and staff especially when considering the high cost of living in Grand County.

Board members Angel Higginbotham and Justin McGuan asked why the raise goes beyond the mill levy passed by voters.

“It seems more responsible to use the million we’re being given,” Higginbotham said, adding that with the district considering another tax ask this year, it seemed fiscally irresponsible to dip into reserves and then asking voters for more money.

Teacher Darrell Woods explained that educators felt the mill levy override should not replace the raises the district would have given teacher if voters had not passed the measure.

“The MLO was meant to help the district give and support better raises, not to replace the district’s responsibility to give a standard raise,” Woods said.

In fact, teachers are pushing to increase the salary base even further to $45,000. The school board agreed to revisit discussions in August, as additional monies from the state might make the raise possible. Board members felt that approving that sort of increase at this point in time made them a bit too nervous.

After extensive discussions, the school board agreed that increasing the salary base to $43,000 would be a fair raise without taking too much risk. If the economy saw a downturn, the district would still have time to reverse course.

“It’s still on the conservative side; we’re not taking risks,” Superintendent Frank Reeves said. “You see what’s there and that’s at worst what’s going to happen with this budget.”

Additionally, roughly a fifth of teachers at East Grand plan to retire in the next five years. Board members felt that this increases the urgency to create competitive salaries and attract quality teachers.

“We’re investing in our business by valuing our employees,” EGSD President Ed Raegner summarized.

The school board also approved a one-time bonus for staff that worked through the 2020-21 school year. This money comes from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and so does not affect the school budget.

The bonuses are only a small part of the ESSER funds that East Grand has received, and board members agreed that staff deserved a reward for a job well done following the challenges from this past year.

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