Roaring Fork schools to seek mill levy override for teacher, staff pay

A delegation of teachers from Roaring Fork Schools rally for greater teacher pay outside the Colorado state Capitol in Denver in April 2018.
Post Independent file photo

Roaring Fork School District voters may get a chance to decide on greater pay for teachers and other district staff in November’s election.

The Roaring Fork School Board last week directed the district to pursue a $5.1 million mill levy override to be spread between teachers, staff and building administrators.

Under the preliminary proposal:

• 72% ($3,672,200) would go to give teachers at district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt a 12% raise;

• 21% ($1,052,870) would provide 8% raises for classified staff;

• 2% ($116,816) would allow for 4% raises for principals and assistant principals;

• 5% ($258,114) would be set aside to be allocated based on input from staff, families and voters to address other district priorities.

“We know that teachers and staff are our greatest asset, and that our staff are currently underpaid for the important work they do,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein wrote in a memo to the school board for its Feb. 26 meeting in Carbondale.

“This situation isn’t new, but it has become increasingly urgent. That’s why we are exploring the potential to ask voters this November to support a mill levy override dedicated to increasing staff salaries.”

The $5.1 million figure is the full remaining amount that the district would be able to seek voter approval for under state law to address cost-of-living adjustments.

District voters already approved mill levy overrides totaling $8.8 million in 1999, 2004 and 2011. That leaves $6.8 million available to request from voters. However, $1.7 million must be reserved for students enrolled in charter schools, according to information provided to the school board.

Last year, the district’s Interest-Based Bargaining team, which negotiates employee pay, staffing and other issues, identified improved salaries as a top priority.

That process resulted in $741,291 worth of budget cuts in certain areas being made, including an increase in the preferred student-to-teacher ratio, to support an additional 2.7% increase for teaching staff.

“These efforts still left us far short of our goal of having salaries in the top one-third of comparative districts,” Stein noted in his memo.

State law allows for school districts to increase their property tax mill levies, with voter approval, specifically to address cost-of-living differences in certain parts of the state.

The Roaring Fork District has one of the highest costs of living in the state, prompting the district in recent years to tackle the issue not only from a pay standpoint but with the creation of an employee housing program using $15 million in funds from the 2015 bond issue approved by voters.

In recent months, a committee made up of certified and classified staff, building leaders, school board members and community representatives has been exploring the feasibility of a mill levy override proposal.

“The committee looked at salaries in comparison districts and market data for major employee groups in the school district to see what it would take to bring our salaries into the top third for all groups,” Stein wrote in his memo.


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