Raises in the works for KUSD

School board members appear ready to spread the Proposition 123 wealth

Susan Chan, KAOL Superintendent

Susan Chan, KAOL Superintendent

KINGMAN - Illegal or not, Proposition 123 money headed to Kingman Unified School District will most likely trickle into the bank accounts of district employees.

Despite continuing arguments over the legality of both the measure and the election itself by state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, the state Investment Board approved the distribution of more than $190 million to Arizona schools for the first Prop 123 payment starting June 30.

Details were being untangled ever since the measure was narrowly approved in May, but it appears that KUSD will get just under $1.3 million for its estimated 6,326 students. Another source lists the amount at over $1.6 million - either way the total is substantial.

A 3-percent pay increase for all employees has been discussed among the members of the KUSD Governing Board and administrators. The pay raise or the actual raise amount will not be finalized until the July 12 school board meeting.

The payment will cover part of 2015-16 and will be received as a lump sum. There has also been an increase to the base level support - the amount paid per student - for 2016-17.

Other moneys will go toward the capital fund that is used to make purchases for building improvements, vehicles and buses, athletic and band equipment, computers, software and software licensing. Health insurance costs may also come into play.

The current 2016-17 budget is only a proposed version. A final draft will be adopted in July.

Board members sound off

KUSD governing board members were asked where they'd like to see the money go and other concerns for improving the district.

"I think most of the board wants pay raises for all of our employees," said Board President Charles Lucero. "I think the community agrees with the board that the money should be for the staff and keep as much money in the classroom."

"The board has decided to give the teachers a raise. It's actually across the board," said board member Bruce Ricca. "We had a meeting (June 22) to hash out more details. We're doing everything we can to get teachers more money.

"I don't know why there were so many people against it. As a board member, we're doing everything we can to make the district better and try to entice some teachers to stick around and giving them the incentive to earn a bonus. It looks like that's going to happen."

Breaking it down

The board may approve a 3.5 percent pay increase across the district. Two percent is part of a loyalty stipend for returning employees hired prior to March 21 in a permanent position. Those employees include teachers, nurses, janitors, bus drivers, maintenance technicians and district administrators. The other 1.5 percent is a salary increase.

Annual teacher pay ranges from $30,000 to $55,341. A three percent increase would be about $900 a year for a starting teacher.

KUSD Account Manager Heather Shaw-Burton said teachers received payments from Proposition 301 totaling $5,413 in the last year.

The extra increase does not include substitute teachers. They'll see an increase in their daily rate due to the new 4 day work calendar.

She laid out some numbers for capital funded expenditures.

A new bell system for a single school is budgeted at $32,000, security camera upgrades are budgeted at $15,000 and a new fire alarm system for a single school is budgeted at $50,000.

"We've had the opportunity to buy low-mileage used buses from Tempe School District for $5,500 to $9,200 per bus," she said. "One brand new bus would cost us upwards of $100,000."

Health care costs were also considered.

"We would also use some of the money to pick up the entire cost of health care insurance increases for all employees so they don't have to pay out of their own pockets," Lucero said.

Between fiscal years 2015-16 to 2016-17, the KUSD base level health care plan went from $7,165 per year to $7,548 per year, or an increase of $383 per employee. Since 2011, the district has not raised health insurance costs for employees.

The base level health insurance package includes dental, vision and basic life insurance. The district's cost has increased from $5,100 per person in 2011 to $7,128 per person for 2016-17, an increase of $2,028 per person. The employee out-of-pocket cost has remained at $35 per month since 2011.

Lucero's plan would use Prop 123 money to cover the $2000 gap between 2011 and current rates.

Employees will still have the $35 out-of-pocket expense, but will pay no additional increases.

Teacher pay and health care aren't the only financial complications.

"Our capital budget has been underfunded as well. New buses, technology and safety investments all go under that budget," Lucero said.

But raising teacher pay is the priority, he said.

"Because of the underfunding of education in the last several years, we haven't been able to pay our employees what they deserve to get paid," Lucero said. "This money helps us do that. It doesn't get us close to where we need to be but it's a start in the right direction."

KAOL

Kingman Academy of Learning is has already given raises but has yet to determine exact allocation of its $209,000 cut.

"Our people got a raise for FY 2016-17 even before we knew about Prop 123," said KAOL Superintendent Susan Chan. "We restructured our money that is paid to teaching staff from Prop 301, so each teacher has the opportunity to earn substantially more than they did last year through that funding source. With all of that being said, we are still discussing what to do with that (Prop 123) money."