Mitchell school board reduces teacher pay cut, opt-outIn a special Monday meeting, the Mitchell Board of Education reduced a negotiated $1,000 salary cut for certified teaching staff by $500, cut 2012 opt-out funds from $400,000 to $350,000 and awarded a major excavation contract to a local company.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
In a special Monday meeting, the Mitchell Board of Education reduced a negotiated $1,000 salary cut for certified teaching staff by $500, cut 2012 opt-out funds from $400,000 to $350,000 and awarded a major excavation contract to a local company.
The brief meeting, which was held at the Mitchell Technical Institute north campus, was called to speed groundwork on the huge Trades Center building project on the MTI south campus. The salary items were added after the school district received a higher-than-expected student count for this fall.
The board voted 4-0, with one member abstaining, to give a one-time $500 bonus to the district’s certified teaching staff.
The $500 is listed as a bonus, Superintendent Joe Graves said, because salary negotiations between the board and the Mitchell Education Association, which represents the district’s certified teaching staff, are completed for the year. Those talks resulted in a $1,000 across-the-board cut for teachers.
The bonus was proposed after the district learned of the higher-than-expected student headcount, which will result in more funding from state government.
The bonus will be multiplied by a teacher’s full-time equivalency status with the amount not to exceed a 1.0 FTE. In other words, a half-time or 0.5 FTE teacher will receive $250.
The district learned last week that the official Sept. 30 student count will be 50 to 55 students higher than expected. The district gets $4,486 per student in aid from the state, which means the district will get about $224,300 more than expected with the infusion of cash from the higher student numbers.
Returning the cash to the district’s teaching staff, board member Dana Price said, is “the honorable thing to do.”
Board member Eric Christensen abstained since his wife is a teacher in the district. Christensen attended Monday’s meeting telephonically.
School district support staff, who are represented by the Mitchell Classified Education Association, will not receive the bonus because MCEA members received no pay cuts under the terms of its contract with the board.
In a previous meeting, the board had also voted to lower salaries for administrative staff by a percentage equal to the percentage of the teachers’ pay cut.
The board voted Monday to have the administrators’ pay reflect the latest infusion of cash.
Prior to Monday, that was a 1.54 percent cut, said Business Manager Steve Culhane. With the unexpected extra money, that means administrative salaries will be cut by 0.71 percent. That amount was derived using both salary and benefit packages.
Graves said he will get a pay cut of $977 this year. That amount is derived from a combined total of his salary plus benefits, he said.
Each administrator will have the option of deducting the 0.71 percent from their salaries, or paying a greater share of insurance benefits. Either option must be decided before the next payroll date of Oct. 28, Culhane said.
The board also voted unanimously to lower the amount of the district’s $400,000 opt-out to $350,000. The “opt-out” is the permission granted by the district’s voters in 2003 to exceed state property tax limitations by up to $700,000 per year.
“The rationale is the same,” said Graves, comparing the opt-out change to the teacher bonuses and administrator pay adjustments. “With the extra revenue streams from the finance formula, we’re now able to reduce the opt-out by that amount.”
The reduction is consistent with board philosophy to use only as much opt-out money as necessary to maintain district programs, Price said: “This demonstrates the proper use of the opt-out.”
Board President Brenda Freidel felt likewise.
“The community has been willing to share the pain with us and support us by offering the opt-out, and we wanted to make sure we scaled that back since we did not need as much of the opt-out money as we originally thought we would,” she said.
There were two bids for the Trades Center excavation work — one from Schoenfelder Construction, of Mitchell, for $284,100, and another from First Rate Excavate, of Sioux Falls, for $565,300.
On the recommendation of Puetz Corp., which is handling construction management duties, the board voted unanimously to award the bid to Schoenfelder. The dirt work will begin immediately. If poor weather causes a seasonal shutdown, the work will be completed next spring.
The higher First Rate Excavate bid reflected the rental charges for excavation equipment.