Re-2 budget reflects goal to improve pay | PostIndependent.com

Re-2 budget reflects goal to improve pay

The Garfield School District Re-2 released its budget for 2017-18, and for Finance Director Christine Hamrick and school officials it's a culmination of nearly a year of collaboration and hard work to ensure that the budget aligns with the district's five goals.

"The largest impact to the development of the 2017-18 budget was the approval of the five district goals and the District Road Map," it states. "The five goals have driven the priorities for the budget this year and were the focus of our budget work."

The district in October 2016 approved four of its five goals: 1) improve positive culture and climate; 2) increase student achievement; 3) ensure good stewardship of district finances; and 4) lead our communities. The fifth goal, recruit and retain highly qualified staff, was added in April.

The fifth goal is a key point in budget discussions.

"The district will be reviewing salary schedules for competitiveness with surrounding districts and for equitability within district," the budget states.

The school board elected to increase the district's salary and benefit schedule based on recommendations from Collaborative Solutions, the district's negotiating body.

"With the resources that we knew we had available, the Garfield Re-2 School Board approved the recommendation of Collaborative Solutions of a 2 percent raise for all returning district employees," said Garfield Re-2 Director of Communication Theresa Hamilton.

The full-day substitute teacher pay increased $10 from $100/day to $110/day. Additionally, long-term substitute teacher pay increased from $120/day to $130/day.

Substitute teacher pay has not been increased in the district in nine years, according to Hamilton.

While the changes to the salary schedule show a clear drive from the district to make its salaries more competitive, more work will still be needed to achieve that fifth goal.

"We also will be exploring a new salary schedule with our staff throughout the course of the year," Hamilton said. "Re-2 is not as competitive as we need to be with our surrounding districts in the area of salary."

The 2 percent staff salary increase and the increase to substitute teacher pay is projected to cost the district $631,000 in total, all the more impressive considering the district's goal to reduce the budgeted deficit by $500,000 starting in 2017-18 until there is no deficit spending.

Due to legislative funding reductions that total around $4.5 million annually, Garfield Re-2 has been operating at a deficit of around $1 million per year in its general fund since 2011-12.

The budgeted deficit totals $488,950 for 2017-18, compared with the 2016-17 original budgeted deficit of $1,226,918. The reduction was due to two factors. The first was that the board cut $500,000 out of the district office budgets for 2017-18, which included salary reductions. The second is that Colorado state education funding came back higher than anticipated, which was used to offset the deficit.

"Our intent is to have a completely balanced budget by the 2019-20 school year," Hamilton said. "Despite state budget cuts, Re-2 is still working to be good stewards of the of the district's finances by balancing its budget over the next few years."

This next cycle would be the district's fifth straight time winning the Meritorious Budget Award, which ensures that the budget meets national standards for quality of information for the public.

Hamrick believes that based on previous awards, this budget will make five in a row.

Any community member who wants a full look at the Garfield Re-2 2017-18 budget can head to the Financial Transparency section of the Re-2 website to find the full 148-page document.

Every year, Garfield School District Re-2 surveys employees and parents about how it is doing. This year, the district added a community component. The district asks that community members complete the brief online survey linked to below and share the areas where the district could get better.

Take the survey by clicking the link or you can find the link on the district website under "quick links," at http://bit.ly/re2_community_survey.