Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Gardner Edgerton School District employees will receive pay raises next year. The board of education approved salary increases of 1.4 percent for teachers, staff and administrators.
It will be a smaller raise than staff in GE schools are accustomed to. In 2008, the board offered teachers, staff and administrators a 5.3 percent salary increase. The following year, they offered 2.1 percent payroll increases.
Although next year’s budget is tight, GE superintendent Bill Gilhaus said the district can afford to give raises to its approximately 800 employees.
“I feel a strong commitment to recognize and reward people for a job well done,” he said. “We’ve managed the district’s money in a manner in which we can afford these increases.”
Gilhaus said administration has a good working relationship with the local teacher’s union.
“We’re all working towards the same common cause,” he said.
The teacher contract for next  year doesn’t increase the wage scale, but all district teachers will take one step up on the pay scale which will amount to a 1.4 percent pay raise. They’ll also work one less day next year as under the new contract teachers will work 186 days instead of 187.
The GE District will pay teachers an average of $52,875 next year, or about $284 per day. That figure includes benefits and supplemental income like coaching salary and summer school work.
Faced with budget pressure from decreasing tax revenues and cuts to base state aid per pupil, the district has made a number of cuts to balance the books.
“Our goal has been to continue to protect our people, our students and the integrity of the classroom,” district business director Eric Hansen told the Gardner News last April as board members continued to consider further cuts.
Two years ago, district officials created several levels of cuts designed to maintain the integrity of the classroom. Level one cuts included deferring textbook adoptions to save $300,000, reducing the technology budget by $190,000 and reducing capital outlay budget by $150,000, and eliminating some non-teaching positions worth $485,000. Level one cuts, which saved the district $1.5 million, have already been implemented.
This year, district officials started cutting from its level two list of cuts, which included reducing capital outlay budgets by $230,000; increasing all-day kindergarten fees by $5 per week; and re-assigning the district’s autism behavior consultant.
In the meantime, the district joined Schools for Fair Funding – a lobbying organization that intends to sue the state for additional funding. The district’s membership dues are based on number of students and the cost of the lawsuit. Officials estimate fees to SFFF could run as high as $12,000 annually.
To date, USD 231 is the only district in Johnson County participating in SFFF, which includes more than 60 districts in Kansas.
Gilhaus said despite the expense to the district, officials are simply defending what is right with regard to proper state funding by joining the lawsuit.
“I am proud that we have not had to select one expenditure over another,” Gilhaus said. “The fact that w are able to defend what we believe is right with regard to proper state funding while at the same time reward the accomplishments of our staff provides further evidence of effective planning and responsibly financial management.”
Gilhaus said giving all employees an equal salary increase percentage-wise is a value of district board members and administrators.
“That’s a philosophical belief of the board and mine,” Gilhaus said. “We work as a group. Regardless of what the title and responsibilities in the school district are, all of the staff is equally important.”
Some administrators received additional salary adjustments due to changing job responsibilities.
For example, due to budget cuts some positions including deputy superintendent were not filled when they became vacant. Those responsibilities were divvied to other administrators, and they received pay increases to reflect their additional tasks.
Staff salaries make up about 80 percent of the district’s budget. Just a few years ago, they made up 74 percent of the budget.
“Since we’ve done all of the reductions, a larger percentage of our budget is actual salaries,” Gilhaus explained. “It’s not because of salary increases, it’s because we’ve decreased spending in so many other areas.”
On the Web:
Gardner Edgerton School District: www.usd231.com