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Jeffco BOE puts value on employees in proposed budget

The final budget is expected to be adopted June 7


The Jefferson County Board of Education is putting value on its educators in its proposed 2018-19 budget with increased pay and cost of living increases for teachers and an increase to long-term substitute teacher pay.

“We’ve talked a lot about making sure we are getting to and remaining competitive with our neighboring districts as far as compensation,” said board member Brad Rupert at the May 3 board meeting. “I think we have kept faith with that promise and I think we are keeping faith with the promise with the steps and levels adjustment.”

Earlier in the week the district came to a tentative agreement with the Jefferson County Education Association, giving steps and level raises for existing teachers and a three percent coast of living increase.

“We worked diligently at the table to balance limited dollars and great needs,” said Amy Webber, executive director of human resources for Jeffco schools. “Competing demands included dollars for schools, programing decisions as well as employee compensation.”

Those dollars add up to $31.6 million — 70 percent of the $45 million of new costs to the total proposed budget of $991 million.

After the Thursday night meeting, requests for raises to substitute teachers and bus drivers were left off the budget.

Original recommendations from cabinet included $107,250 to increase long-term substitute pay from $115-a-day to $145-a-day to stay competitive in this staffing area. Long-term substitute rate is issued when a substitute teacher is in a position for 11 or more days.

An additional $839,635 was requested to restructure the substitute school bus driver from part-time status to full-time relief driver.

But board members felt there was still something that could be done in this arena and requested to continue the conversation at the May 7 study session.

Included in the May 3 budget presentation was an addition $2 million in unexpected revenue that was suggested to be put toward equity-based increases to school based budgets (SBB).

These unexpected dollars sparked a conversation about increasing this years capital transfer for $500,000 — which would double this years transfer.

“I think we are still not doing a good job maintaining the building education has to happen in,” Rupert said. “I’m concerned that we are not putting enough funding to starting to fix that problem.”

Boardmembers Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens and Susan Harmon echoed those thoughts.

“It does make a difference,” Harmon said of the capital funds increase. “I recognize that it may not seem that way when we are looking at dollars.”

Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass cautioned the board against moving additional funds into the capital fund in the same year they may ask voters for a bond to complete capitol projects.

“If we are on the ballot in the fall and we are not successful, then I think we need to have deeper conversations moving forward,” Glass said. “But while that is still out there you may be able to cover a significant amount of the need with bond funds and protect other funds for programatic uses like hiring more teachers and keeping compensation competitive.”

But after a failed bond in 2016, the board is not confident in relying solely on the voters to pay for improvements to school buildings.

“This happens to be a giant problem, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t take a first step,” Rupert said. “I don’t want to take our voters for granted that they didn’t mean what they said two year ago.”

At the end of the night the board chose to move around $500,000 to fund the additional capital transfer.

Another try at sub and bus pay

At the May 7 study session the board and Glass reexamined funding substitute and bus driver pay.

The goal of the discussion was not to spend more money, as the budget had already been balanced, but to find money within the budget to pay for line items that had become a priority of the board.

The discussion led to the 2.3 million that was recommended for additional SBB funding, since the money was unexpected — coming from an increase in this year’s state funding.

Glass pointed out that Jeffco doesn’t suffer from a lack of substitute teachers, which is why funding the additional pay wasn’t higher on the priority list. But the board agreed that giving those teachers a raise was also a priority, thus they shifted $107,250 from the additional SBB to fund the increase in long-term sub pay.

But the almost $900,000 needed increase in transportation pay proved too high a price tag for the board to swing without taking away from the SBB funding for schools in need.

“Every year we say let’s hold that priority and that’s true this year as well even thought it’s a less awful year,” Stevens said. “We are not forgetting and this continues to be a long-term need.”

Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 7.


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