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Oak Harbor School Board tackles pay, benefits at forum Monday

Oak Harbor High School teacher Lori McKole spends time planning after class. “Time Responsibility and Incentive” pay offsets the cost of the time she spends grading papers and doing other class-related work at home. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor High School teacher Lori McKole spends time planning after class. “Time Responsibility and Incentive” pay offsets the cost of the time she spends grading papers and doing other class-related work at home.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

As a continuation of the Oak Harbor School Board’s monthly forums regarding the future of local levy funding, the board invites the public to discuss school district staff salary, wages and benefits Monday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Of the district budget, 83 percent is spent on salary, wages and benefits, said Superintendent Rick Schulte.

Every school district in the state uses local levy money to supplement salary, wages and benefits paid by the state, Schulte said. However, Oak Harbor doesn’t use any local levy money; the funding comes from federal Impact Aid, which is likely to decrease next year.

This is an important topic for the community to discuss because the district runs the risk of being unable to attract and keep qualified employees if the district can’t adequately pay them, Schulte said.

The state pays certificated staff like teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians for 180 days of work, which is one school year. However, if the district needs the staff to work longer, such as at the beginning and end of the school year or for staff development days, the local school district has to pay for that, Schulte said.

The school district pays teachers for 19 of these “Time Responsibility and Incentive” days. Every district in the state pays for TRI days using levy dollars, Schulte said.

TRI days aren’t literally full days of work; there isn’t documentation of specific hours worked, Schulte said.

“It’s just a stipend in recognition of the work they do when not at school,” Schulte said. Teachers grade papers, make phone calls and more from home.

The state provides average per employee funding for classified staff, which includes secretaries, maintenance, business office employees and others. The funding is the same per employee regardless of the job so the school district negotiates with the union to create individual wages. The school district must pay for anything above the base pay allocated by the state, Schulte said.

The district also provides supplementary pay for administrators because the state only issues base funding, Schulte said.

Over the last several years, the state has reduced or frozen its funding for education.

Passed in 2000, Initiative 732 required the state to pay a cost of living increase to staff every year but this is the third year the initiative will be suspended due to the decline in state revenue. Even though the voters approved the initiative, the state quit paying, a topic that may be discussed at the forum.

While Schulte said he would like to see the state pay more for salary, wages and benefits, or for the district to find another means to fund these, the focus of the forum is on hearing the community’s input.

“The underlying question is, what do we want to do about that, if anything,” Schulte said.

Share your opinion at the forum Monday at the school district building, located at 350 S. Oak Harbor St. For information, call 279-5000.

 

Community Events, April 2014

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