Budget Cuts

Most readers of this blog know that the big news in St. Vrain over the past month is that we have planned budget cuts for the 2008-2009 school year.  The most significant cut is a reduction of 85 teaching positions.  Many, but not all, of these positions will be eliminated through retirements and resignations.  Some teachers will have to look for new jobs in other school districts.  I sat with some of these teachers last week.  It is not a fun to visit with people whose job you had a hand in eliminating.  The teachers were highly professional.

I have been asked by many people why we are making these cuts.  The reasons are straightforward.

Fiscal responsibility.  We have excellent financial systems in place and we understand that if we maintain the status quo (including holding teacher and staff compensation constant) we will face budget deficits by next year.  We receive additional funds each year in the amount of inflation plus one percent.  These increases will continue through 2010 (that is the time that Amendment 23 expires).  This year the inflation rate used by the state is 2.2 percent.  Thus, we’ll receive a 3.2% increase in funding.

At the same time, many expenses are increasing faster than inflation plus one percent.  For instance, health care, energy costs and mandatory contributions to the state retirement fund all are increasing at a rate far greater than inflation plus one percent.  That means something must give.  In a people driven business (83% of the budget is salaries and benefits; many other budget items are mandated by the state), reducing personnel is often one of the only options available.  In previous years, significant staff cuts have been made to non-classroom positions.  For instance, we barely keep up with maintenance.

Increasing teacher pay. St. Vrain compensates teachers and administrators far less than neighboring school districts.  As such, we are less and less competitive in our marketplace.  We are more and more vulnerable to teachers choosing to leave our school district.  I would argue that we are most vulnerable to losing teachers with about 10 years of experience with a master’s degree.  These teachers can earn up to 15% more per year by going to districts just 30 to 40 minutes away.  We’re falling behind nearby competitors in regard to base pay, too.

We can debate whether or not teachers earn too little or too much.  But, if you don’t pay a competitive wage, over time, you won’t attract and retain good teachers.  That’s simple economics.

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One Response to “Budget Cuts”

  1. Brad Jolly Says:

    So, if you believe that good teachers are attracted by and deserving of high pay, adjust your pay scale accordingly. If the average teacher is currently worth X dollars, pay the top ones 1.2X and the bottom ones 0.8X. It happens all the time in the real world.

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