By Ed Fincher
Teachers in the Archuleta School District began this school year without a step increase in their salary because, according to superintendent Mark DeVoti, the new roof on the elementary school was paid for out of the reserve fund. However, in light of recent developments, there is a possibility this situation may change.
“We just finished our audit for the year,” DeVoti explained, “and for the last five or six years we have had to go on this spiral of cuts. If somebody retired, we wouldn’t replace them. If we didn’t have needs, we wouldn’t ask for money. We would cut where we could, and we would get lean to adjust our staffing to equal our student numbers, so the auditor said, ‘You know, you’ve done these cuts really well, but you’re at the time where you can pull out of it. You’ve made some good savings so let’s start looking at bringing some things back.’
“So one of the things I’m going to ask for at the October board meeting is I’m going to recommend they fund a salary step now, and since they didn’t start the school year with it, to make it retroactive. I’m also going to ask for another third-grade teacher, because right now we have thirty to thirty-two kids in a classroom. Our elementary enrollment is way up, and our kindergarten is way up, so for kindergarten we’re looking at adding more classroom aides.”
DeVoti explained that a new teacher makes $32,000 per year. That’s step one. The salary for a second year teacher is $32,650. That’s step two. For each year after that, a teacher’s salary steps up by $650.
The money to cover these step increases should come from the state, but DeVoti explained that there has been no new money from the state for the last five years. Ninety-five percent of the districts in Colorado are five years behind on their step increases.
Since it can’t depend on the state, a school district has to get creative with its budget or find other funding sources if it wants to give teachers a raise. Up until this year the local district has kept up with step increases for its staff by using reserve money.
“The partnership we have with the county, this SRS money (Secure Rural Schools)” DeVoti said, “has allowed us to fund those pieces. We have been taking steps out of SRS, and it affects our reserves.”
According to “Archuleta School District 50 Jt. 2012-2013 Budgets” there are eight separate funds: general, capital reserve, grants, bond redemption, food service, insurance, private purpose trust and student activity trust. Each of these is an independent fiscal and accounting entity, with a self-balancing set of accounts.
The general fund is the operating fund of the district and it includes expenditures for salaries, benefits, purchased services, supplies, materials and equipment. The capital reserve fund, on the other hand, is used to account for large capital expenditures such as the acquisition of land, construction of new facilities, alterations and improvements to existing structures, new vehicles and buses, and large technology purchases.
When asked to explain how a new roof for the elementary school, which should have been paid for out of the capital fund, can cause teachers to not get a step increase (since salaries come out of the general fund), DeVoti said, “What we have left over at the end of the year out of each fund we carry forward and it becomes reserve monies. We only put aside so much for capital improvements, and we didn’t have enough in capital improvement money to do the roof last year, so we had to look at our reserves, and we have been using the reserves to fund the step increases.”