Board OKs school budget; $45K in 'stipends'
The Haines Borough school board unanimously approved a $5.13 million budget for the coming year and one-time “stipends” of $1,000 to full-time teachers and staff members at its meeting Tuesday.
The stipends, the result of negotiations between the district and the Haines Education Association, will cost the district an estimated $45,000. The money will come from cost savings the district has seen in the past year, said board chair Anne Marie Palmieri.
School board members characterized the stipend as a means of rewarding teachers without binding the district to permanent salary changes at a time of an anticipated drop in enrollment.
“It’s a good agreement,” said member Brian Clay. “We don’t know what we’re getting next year for a student count. It doesn’t commit us into something into the future.”
Brenda Josephson described the extra pay as warranted. “Our goal is to have motivated teachers who are effective for our students. This lets them know we appreciate their service.”
Teachers’ union president Lisa Andriesen characterized the stipend as a concession.
“We wanted something put into the permanent (pay) schedule. They had money left over from this year’s budget. (The board) was willing because they knew they had the money (in district fund balances),” Andriesen said. “School funding is really conservative, so there’s always more.”
Andriesen said permanent changes to increase the pay scale are important for retaining and attracting good teachers for the district. Recent increases in the pay schedule have moved the district’s mid-range and top salaries to a middle ranking in terms of comparison to other districts, she said. Starting salaries here are below the mid-range for pay as compared to districts statewide, she said.
Teachers and staff are entering the second year of a two-year contract. In June 2013, teachers received a 2 percent raise and a one-year, $550 per capita stipend to defray rising costs of health care. The raises cost the district $87,300 annually. Negotiation of terms last year included the school board’s agreement to revisit discussions of salary and benefits this year.
The $5.13 million budget approved for the coming year is a reduction from last year’s budget, which was $5.46 million and based on expected enrollment of 253 students. Next year’s budget is based on 244 students attending Haines School and closure of Mosquito Lake School.
The school year closed with 271 students.
Board chair Palmieri said the $100,800 increase in funding from enrollment over projections this year was more than overshadowed by the $150,000 loss from a drop in enrollment at Mosquito Lake to fewer than 10 students.
The budget includes $2.7 million in state funding and $1.56 million in a borough contribution to the school district for instruction. The borough also will contribute $210,000 for school activities, meal programs and Community Education. The borough’s contribution is identical to last year’s.
On a 6-1 vote with Josephson opposed, the board agreed to spend $8,000 to pay half of additional engineering expenses associated with the $372,000 replacement of the high school’s air-handling units. The Haines Borough, which paid $155,000 of project costs, will also pay $8,000 to round out $16,000 owed to Murray and Associates for the project, including inspection costs.
Josephson questioned why the engineering costs weren’t included in the original price tag and said she wanted to see a written bill for the work before approving payment. She also questioned why the district had to pay so much of the project’s total cost. “The school district has taken on a tremendous amount more than it expected to.”
Member Sara Chapell said the board agreed to contribute to the project because it had funds in its capital projects account. “Normally, we wouldn’t be putting this kind of money into this kind of project.”
Also at the meeting, resident Debra Schnabel offered the district $5,000 for artwork to go around a concrete retaining wall that faces Main Street. Raised lettering there says “Haines School,” but much of the wall is blank.
Schnabel said the wall wasn’t beautification but an art project. “I just figured someone had to put the money out there to get the project going. I don’t know if $5,000 will pay for all of it.”
Schnabel submitted a sample proposal by Merrick Bochart, showing flowers around the lettering. Bochart has created several large murals downtown. school board members said they’d like something bright, possibly involving a glacier bear, the school’s mascot. “(I’d support) something that makes us look like more than flower children,” said member Sarah Swinton. Member Lisa Schwartz said she would favor artwork resembling “a Picasso piece.”
Schnabel said if the school used a request for proposals, the district might get the job done for between $4,000 and $7,000. “If you go out with an RFP, you may learn you can’t do it for $5,000.”
Members Josephson and Clay volunteered to head up a board subcommittee on the project and report back to the board at its next meeting, set for 7 p.m. June 17 at the school library.
The board also approved spending $5,700 for a 12-day contract extension for superintendent Michael Byer to assist the transition to incoming superintendent Ginger Jewell. Jewell arrives in town later this month, when Byer will be gone. Byer’s extra time will include accompanying Jewell to a superintendent’s conference in Juneau and an August school board meeting.