At the July 27 Bargaining Session, the district offered teachers a Three Fourths of a percent raise. Yes, you read that right. That is less than one percent. The offer was preceded with a detailed presentation about district finances. The state increased our funding by less than one percent, and added a bit to required purchases.
Obviously, we did not settle. We did respond with our own research into the spring payroll. We took last year’s settlement in which they allocated Pay-for-Performance dollars, a COLA (cost of living adjustment), and an adjustment for newly hired teachers, and checked to see if they spent all the money they set aside. In analyzing payroll it appeared the district saved about a half million dollars compared to what had been allocated. With fringe (payroll taxes, including the FRS contribution) that is close to $600K.
Within that analysis, we noticed they had more newly hired teachers than originally projected. (We figured this by seeing how many adjustments they paid for newly hired teachers.) This led to our annual question: Did the Board save money by having a cheaper workforce in terms of base pay than they had the year before. To explain, the 2015-2016 projection for base payroll salary was based on the 2014-2015 spring payroll. During the summer of 2015, many teachers left and were replaced with newly hired teachers. There is always a chance the newly hired teachers save money compared to the ones who left. How do we know? Well, we know if there is a savings by comparing year over year annual salaries, as reported to the DOE. See, we can take the annual average salary from one year, add in the percentage raise, and see if the new salary met the new goal. In the case of last year, it did not. There was a savings. In fact, there was a significant savings. How much? The savings could have been as much as $6 million.
Before we run screaming that they saved $6 million on payroll, we have to admit that this takes greater research. These DOE reports are just a point in time, and payroll fluctuates all the time. However, we know there was something, certainly in the millions.
Here’s the good news. Everything we presented made good mathematical sense. But for the first time EVER, there was acknowledgment from the district that there is truth to it. Year after year, dollars shake out of the budget as a surplus and the district refuses to acknowledge or admit it could come from teacher salaries. This year was different. We have a new Superintendent. We have a new Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services. This is what happens when we get the right people on the School Board. There is a new spirit of cooperation. This all led to a promise to investigate the matter and find those dollars. Will it be all $6 million? Maybe not. But I did get an invitation to go through the books with the new money person. This is unprecedented. And appreciated.
What’s this mean? The offer was ridiculously low. But we’ll be back to the table in late August or early September when last year’s budget book is closed out. If there’s money, we’ll find it. And get better news than Three Fourths of a Percent.