Budget talks to include looking at teacher raises

At last week's special meeting, the school's governing board started discussion on next year's budget following a presentation by Business Manager Lee Metheny.

Preliminary figures show no surprises, he said. Estimated revenue for next year is about $3.36 million.

"It's very, very close to what we had this year," Metheny said. "There's not a whole lot of change."

State aid and property taxes make up the primary revenue sources, which total $3.25 million. County and federal programs provide another $409,000 in secondary revenue.

While most of those revenues look fairly constant, Metheny did voice concern about Forest Fees, which are figured at $42,000 for this year and next. Those funds, which are paid to districts with a high concentration of national forest to offset the limited tax base, have not been paid yet for this year. Metheny said the fund, which once held $70,000, has dropped down to about $20,000.

"Hopefully it's not going to go away," he said. "It is something Congress could vote right out if they wanted to."

Metheny presented four scenarios for salaries, the district's biggest expense ­ no increase, an across-the-board $600 increase, a $1,000 increase for everyone and a $3.2 percent increase. The costliest option would add 33 cents to the tax rate.

"To put that in perspective, the K-three override added 40-something cents to the tax rate," he said.

Maintaining current salaries would drop costs to about about $20,000 less than the $2.3 million budgeted this year, Metheny said.

"The reason for that drop is that we have a couple of people who are maxed out on the scale who are retiring at the end of this year and we're not going to bring somebody in at the top of the scale," he said.

With a $600 increase ­ half what teachers received this year ­ total payroll costs would go up almost $15,000, to $2.32 million. With a $1,000 increase for everyone, payroll costs would be $2.34 million.

"Every $100 increase across the board adds about $5,885 to our bottom line," Metheny said.

A 3.2 percent increase ­ a figure teachers had negotiated in the past ­ would add about $1,100 to salaries across the board, with a total payroll cost of $2.35 million.

Board member Chuck Wahler said that the Salary Committee had met recently and wanted to further explore the system at Blue Ridge, which doesn't use a salary table.

"The difference between that way and a salary table is that nobody is ever maxed out," Wahler said.

There was also no limit on how much teachers could earn for continuing education.

"If you took those credits, you were going to get money for that education," Wahler said.

Breen said that she is arranging a visit from the Blue Ridge superintendent to give a presentation to the staff, likely in mid-March.

"If we have a lot of support and people want to do this, we can bring it back to the board for approval," said Breen.

If it has wide support, it could be adapted for use here, possibly as early as next school year though Wahler cautioned that it may not be realistic.

"I don't want to rush it and screw it up," he said. "I think there's a lot of appeal. I'd just as soon take the time. If there is strong sentiment to move in that direction, it could happen this year. The framework is already there."

"The biggest factor in this is figuring out the money for salaries," he said. "We need to do that relatively quickly to see if we're going down that path or not."

All other expenses total about $421,000. Metheny said that electric and propane expenses are up for next year, as is water.

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