All 1,300 employees of Flagstaff's mainstream public school district are set to receive their first significant pay raises in five years.
The governing board of the Flagstaff Unified School District approved raises Tuesday costing a total of $2 million a year, or about 3.5 percent of total payroll.
The raises were made possible by a halt this year to a decade-long drop in enrollment that had cost the district millions of dollars in state subsidies, forced the closure of four schools and eliminated nearly a hundred teaching positions.
"This (pay raise package) is a credit to the hard work of all district employees," said board member Dolores Biggerstaff before the 3-0 vote. She was joined by Sarah Ells and Paul Kulpinski. Christine Fredericks was absent and Miguel Vasquez abstained because he said he is the parent of an FUSD employee.
FUSD has created a number of magnet programs in language, science and technology, outdoor learning, and advanced placement courses in response to similar initiatives by local charter schools. After a drop of more than 1,300 students in the past three years, FUSD enrollment is up this year by more than 100.
Dietrich Sauer, FUSD director of human resources, said Wednesday a team representing teachers, non-teaching staff and administrators began meeting on a possible pay raise six months ago as soon as the enrollment turnaround became apparent. The only recent raise in pay was last year's across-the-board bonus payment of $400.
That bonus will be rolled into next year's base pay, and total payroll will be increased by $2 million, or about 3.5 percent, Sauer said.
Teachers elected to take a 2 percent increase to the salary schedule, and some will also see 2.5 percent increases as they advance to the next step on the salary ladder. Non-teaching employees agreed to raises of 25 cents per hour.
The pay package will raise the salaries of starting teachers from $30,900 to $32,352, still far below the starting salaries at comparable districts in the Valley.
Sauer said that once a tentative deal was reached, he and the negotiating team of Derek Born and Connie Padilla-Meraz representing teachers and non-teachers, respectively, sent out the proposal by email to all district employees for feedback.
"The results came back 96 percent for approval," he said.
Ken Garland, FUSD director of finance, has told the board that the raise is financially sustainable for the next two years, assuming enrollment does not fall. The raise is being paid for largely out of several reserve funds and savings on energy costs.
But by the third year, Garland has warned that the pay raises will be difficult to support if district voters do not renew the 15 percent budget override, which brings in an extra $8 million a year in local taxes above state-imposed revenue limits.
The override renewal would be needed in November 2014 to cover the third year of the pay raise in 2016 and subsequent years.
Last year, district voters approved a $21 million capital bond to help make up for state funding cuts for textbook and computer purchases and building maintenance.