Summit school district considers pay increases for support staff, administrators

School buses are pictured at the Summit School District's bus barn in Frisco. The Summit school board is considering increasing the pay for support staff members, including bus drivers.
Tripp Fay/Summit Daily News archive

Potential pay increases for Summit School District’s support and administration staff members could have long-term financial impacts, according to school board discussions Thursday.

During the meeting, school board members directed Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake to include pay increases for support staff and administration in the 2022-23 proposed budget, which the board plans to approve in June. In total, the increases would add $590,402 to the district’s spending next school year.

The idea of the salary bump is to ensure Summit School District is competitive with similar districts in Colorado. The district worked with a consulting firm to complete a market analysis earlier this year, which compared the salaries to seven other districts: Eagle, Roaring Fork, Aspen, Steamboat, Englewood, Boulder and Westminster.

The survey combines the salaries for various positions into an average, which is considered the “market rate.” Eighty percent of support staff members, such as bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, social workers, secretaries and cafeteria workers, met the market rate, along with 94% of administrators.

However, the school district has a goal to be in the 75th percentile of the market rate. Only 33% of support staff and 21% of administrators met that goal, according to Drake’s data.

The $590,402 increase would bring all of the district’s support staff and administrators into 75th percentile. The salary increase would not apply to teachers.

A majority of the board members were in favor of the pay bump because it will likely improve recruitment and retention efforts. This year, the district suffered from staffing woes, with many classrooms going without the necessary support staff to get through each day.

The board has already approved a 4.8% raise for district salaries across the board as a way to improve retention.

“All of our groups that are not teachers, they all add to our strategic plan and our mission: academic and personal success for every student,” board member Consuelo Redhorse said. “We need the whole team to be able to do that.”

Board President Kate Hudnut added that Summit County has seen corporations, like Vail Resorts, increase pay, which is a sign that salary bumps are needed in every industry.

“They don’t do that lightly,” she said. “We’re at an incredibly difficult time in our country, in our county and in our towns. Now is our time to step up.”

Other board members felt moving the district to meet market rate would be too much of a risk.

If adopted into the current proposed 2022-23 budget, Drake estimated the pay increase leave the district with 10% of its savings set aside for emergencies. That number would continue to dwindle over the next few years with only 4.3% of the savings remaining in the budget during the 2023-24 school year and 5.4% of the savings in the budget during the 2024-25 school year.

Those estimates assume a 5% increase in revenue, which Drake said is a rather “positive outlook” for the district over the years.

“In theory, heart and soul, I’m behind this,” board member Chris Alleman said. “But when (Drake) put those numbers up, that’s frightening. Getting down to less than 5% is a really scary number.”

Alleman added he would be in support of the pay increase if the district could come up with a strategy to avoid depleting its reserves in the future. Board member Johanna Kugler agreed with Alleman, adding that future state and federal school funding can’t be predicted.

As of Thursday night, the district had 80 open positions on its hiring portal. Even with the pay increases, the district may struggle to find people fill the positions, Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said.

“Don’t suffer under any illusions that this will fix the problem,” Crawford said. ” … It will certainly affirm the people who are here, in terms of retaining. It will help in attracting, but it’s still going to be an adventure, man.”

Tuesday’s meeting was not an official vote on the budget. The board will make its final decisions on pay when it discusses the 2022-23 budget in June.

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