A budget that places increasing emphasis on meeting the social and emotional needs of students and on providing a living wage to nonprofessional staff members was presented to a sparse crowd at the Durango School District 9-R public budget presentation on Tuesday at Miller Middle School.
The current draft budget proposes $54.21 million in expenditures compared with the current budget of $48.95 million. However, the draft budget is $294,453 in excess of revenue, and that amount must be cut from the draft before a final budget is approved, probably in June.
“There is an appropriate focus on the social-emotional needs of the students. I think that is what the board heard loud and clear from meetings and with dinners they held with teachers,” said 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
In addition, he said placing more emphasis on providing a living wage to staff members, from cafeteria to maintenance staff, is an important priority for board members. “The living wage component of the budget is recognizing what it takes to survive in our community, and under this budget, no staff member would make less than $13 an hour,” he said.
Ensuring support staff members earn at least $13 an hour will increase total salaries dedicated to them by $425,580.
While few residents attended Tuesday’s session, Snowberger encouraged attendance at next Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, when another public hearing will be held on the budget.
Snowberger said he was particularly interested in hearing from the public about where they would trim the $294,453 that must be cut from the draft budget.
Staff members dedicated to addressing students’ social and emotional needs were added at Florida Mesa, Needham, Park and Riverview elementary schools.
“The reality is: We have kiddos who were evicted the night before coming to math class,” Snowberger said. “We need to have people in place to address these issues when they are happening.”
The budget, he said, begins a process to better meet the needs of students going through family crises by addressing behavioral issues before they become too disruptive to the classroom environment or safety threats.
A new teacher salary schedule put in place a year ago has detractors among teachers. They can now increase their salaries in more ways than just taking additional college courses, but they aren’t guaranteed annual increases.
The new salary schedule offers increases ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 instead of annual increases that averaged $700. In addition, Snowberger said, teachers reach the cap in salary at $70,000 faster than the old schedule, and that ensures teachers earn more over a lifetime.
To address the new salary schedule that no longer provides annual increases, the budget includes a one-time transitional stipend to provide teachers an increase of at least $500 for the year even if they have not earned the points to move to the next salary level.
The total cost for the transitional stipends, which will be offered only for 2018-19, will be $185,000.