School board finally finalizes budget
At the same time, the board set the school property tax levy at $35.88 million, a 3.17 percent increase from last year.
Some board members had considered pushing property taxes even higher in order to cover at least some of an approximately $2 million shortfall, but no one suggested that Tuesday.
The board voted unanimously to use the Fund 10 balance to cover the shortfall and give final approval to the 2010-11 budget.
After months of wrangling over spending and cutting the budget, board members had little to say before the final votes.
The board spent considerable time, however, on the question of pay increases for 109 administrators and other non-unionized staff members.
The board voted 7-2 for pay increases for all principals, assistant principals and directors plus therapy assistants, social workers, kitchen managers and others not represented by a union. Bill Sodemann and Peter Severson were the "no" votes.
The increase will be 2.25 percent overall, although individual increases might vary based on merit, Superintendent Karen Schulte said. The group got no pay raise last year.
In addition, another 0.5 percent increase will be used to bring the pay of directors Yolanda Cargile and Barb Hilliker and certain assistant physical/occupational therapy assistants and kitchen managers up to the level of their peers.
The board voted 9-0 for the 0.5 percent.
The pay package overall will cost $224,234 this year.
Peter Severson wanted to increase the pay of those earning the lower salaries but not that of administrators. Sodemann agreed and said it's time for governments to realize that the economy can't support continual pay increases for public employees while private employees watch their incomes eroded.
"When does this madness stop?" Sodemann said.
Sodemann said the board couldn't solve similar problems at the state and national levels, "but you have to start somewhere."
Sodemann proposed a 1 percent increase for assistant principals and those above them and a 2 percent for those earning less. That idea was voted down.
Board member Kevin Murray, a retired firefighter, took issue with Sodemann.
"Let's not debate the merits of private (versus) public-sector employees at the school board table. It's not the place to do it. I'm tired of this attack on public-sector employees. Why do we have to pick on them just because they have jobs and benefits? We should be applauding that."
Sodemann responded that he respects those workers, and in this economy, "to still get an increase, I don't think that's a slap in the face."
Winning the argument was board member Kristin Hesselbacher, who said the board is asking administrators to do more and more with less. She noted that many of them are new to the district and have newly minted doctorates, and she said she feared the district would lose them in short order if they did not get a pay increase.
Board member DuWayne Severson agreed: "If you want the best results, sometimes you have to pay for it."
Board member Greg Ardrey noted that teachers got a pay increase, so it was also a question of fairness.
The board also voted 8-1, with Peter Severson dissenting, to spend up to $35,000 to contract for grant-writing services. This was a cut in the original proposal to hire a grant writer this year for up to $50,000.