School board approves pay raises for teachers and other employees

With little fanfare and almost no discussion, the Lawrence school board on Monday approved a new contract that will give teachers and other certified personnel an average 3-percent pay raise next year.

The board also approved similar enhancements for administrators and classified staff including secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers and other non-licensed employees.

Combined, those changes are expected to add $2.8 million to the district’s personnel costs next year, most of which is expected to come from spending down the district’s cash balances.

“All of the wages and benefits for all the employee groups before you tonight, going to that $2.8 million, does dip into the reserve funds and goes beyond the new state funding that we are getting from the state next year,” assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden told the board.

Under the contract with the Lawrence Education Association, the average total pay increase will be $1,381 per year. That includes a permanent $800 increase in base pay, plus funding for movement on the pay scale for additional years of experience and additional college credit.

That’s slightly more generous than the $750 base pay increase the board approved last year. The year before that, however, the district gave a one-time $1,000 bonus to all teachers, but no permanent increase in the pay scale.

In addition, the contract calls on the district to absorb a 7-percent increase in health insurance premiums for individuals, estimated to cost just over $272,000.

It also includes a $5 per month increase in the district’s contribution to employees’ 403(b) retirement contribution plans, and slight increases in pay for extra duty and certain additional assignments.

Hayden said the package for administrators and classified staff is similar, but the money for pay raises is put into a pool and distributed by the administration based on wage surveys and the need to attract applicants into hard-to-fill positions.

Hayden said the most likely source of funding for the pay raises would be to spend down some of the money in the district’s contingency reserve fund.

Typically, he said, the district tries to keep about $6.5 million in that fund, or about 10 percent of the district’s general fund budget.

“We tried to be very purposeful this year when looking at our budget planning, and working through that process, and recognizing that there are certain funds that had dollars that need to be spent, and funds that were available and needed to be tapped into,” Hayden said.

During a budget briefing earlier in the meeting, Hayden outlined some of the budget issues the board will face in August when it finalizes the budget for the next year.

Although the Kansas Legislature did not approve any increase in base per pupil aid for the upcoming year, Hayden said the Lawrence district will see some increase in state funding next year due to enrollment growth. But it will also see even greater increased costs due to that growth.

Overall, not counting the wage and benefit increases, he said the district expects to incur $2.2 million in new costs next year. That will be offset by about $2.6 million in new funding and reallocation of existing resources.