ARIZONA CITY — Teachers and staff of the Toltec School District will get raises when school resumes in the fall to meet state teacher pay and minimum wage requirements.
After Gov. Doug Ducey’s order to close all schools for the remainder of the school year due to COVID-19, many school districts are adjusting budgets for the next fiscal year.
The grants specialist and interim business manager for the Toltec School District, Tim McCain, told the Governing Board that with cancellation of summer school, some funds need to be reallocated to other areas and that the federal government is allowing more carryover into the following fiscal year.
Following last month’s revision, the district’s budget balance is around $230,000. But with the school closures, McCain told the board that he expects that amount to increase.
“We are going to realize some savings that we can’t quantify yet until those bills start coming in like power and water and stuff like that, that we can’t actually put a number to yet,” McCain said.
The big topic discussed during Wednesday’s monthly board meeting was increased pay for various employees with the updated salary schedules for staff to complete the state-mandated 20% increase for appropriately certified teachers over three years.
The board approved a 5% increase for appropriately certified teachers, which would increase the M&O budget by nearly $44,300.
In a 4-1 vote, the board approved a 25-cent-an-hour raise for classified employees to avoid having any workers under minimum wage.
During the previous years, the district has known what the minimum wage increase in January would be; however, it doesn’t know the exact number at this time.
“I don’t know exactly how many would have to move up but if it was one or two cents, we’re not talking a lot of money if we had to move them up,” McCain said.
Board member Dennis Callahan said 25 cents does not make a big difference and asked if the board could wait until August and revisit the item. The only problem with waiting until August is that the employees sign their contracts before school starts.
“They deserve a lot more than that,” Callahan said. “I’d rather say, ‘We’re looking at it. We’re going to make an adjustment, but we want to make the biggest adjustment that we can.’”
Board member Pam Long and board President Mark Lindgren had no problem with revisiting the item a later date with the possibility of an additional raise to 25 cents, but they ultimately voted to give employees that raise now.
“This is something that we need to approve so we can put it on there and they can sign their agreements,” Lindgren said. “If there is a chance (to revisit this) and we can, then I’m all for it. For right now this is the best that we’ve got and we’re going to go with that.”
McCain added that had the item not been approved, employees would have begun the following school year at the current minimum wage because there was not a step in pay.
In another 4-1 vote the board approved increasing administrative salaries for the Toltec Elementary School principal and vice principal as well as the Arizona City Elementary principal.
“This is just what we’ve done,” Superintendent Denise Rogers said. “We started with the hourly (employees), then we moved to teachers, every one of them were frozen in this district for several years. They’ve been asking for this for over two years. It just takes time because of budget restraints but they have been patient.”
The board also approved a $3 pay increase for hourly employees who are physically reporting to work during the pandemic for the hours worked until the end of the school year.
While the district has accommodated many employees to work from home, some report to the school sites four days a week to help out with the school lunches and other duties.