Board hears salary comparison

A discussion at Monday's meeting of the Steamboat Springs School Board shed light on how salaries of local school staff compare with those of other state educators.

Vody Herrmann, director of public school finance for the Colorado Department of Education, presented School Board members with financial data from the 2003-04 academic year.

The data includes total revenues and salary expenditures for every school district in Colorado and provides a ranked list for the percentage of revenue that each school district spent on salaries and benefits that year.

On most lists, Steamboat Springs ranked in or near the state's top third.

For example, the Steamboat Springs School District spent nearly $9 million in 2003-04 on salaries and benefits for "professional instructors," mostly teachers, which was about 54 percent of the district's $16.6 million in revenues that year.

Out of 178 school districts in Colorado, that percentage ranked Steamboat at No. 62. The Delta County School District ranked No. 1 that year, with 79 percent of revenues spent on salaries and benefits for professional instructors. Moffat County ranked 28th, at 58 percent.

For administrators, Steamboat ranked 69th in the state, with 6.4 percent of its revenue spent on those salaries and benefits.

According to the data, Steamboat's highest ranking was for paraprofessional compensation, which was 38th. The district's lowest ranking was for office administrator and support staff compensation. That compensation, 4 percent of total revenue, ranked 93rd in the state.

Revenue and salary data for the 2004-05 academic year will be available in about a month, district officials said.

The district's bargaining team began meeting last week to negotiate next year's salaries and benefits for district staff.

District Superintendent Donna Howell said the bargaining team would compare Steamboat with similar districts.

Dale Mellor, director of operations and finances for the district, compiled data that compares Steamboat to 11 districts, including Moffat County, Telluride, Academy 20, Cheyenne Mountain, Roaring Fork, Lewis Palmer, Ouray, Boulder Valley, Summit, Aspen and Eagle County.

Out of those districts, Steamboat ranked sixth in 2003-04 by spending 78 percent of its revenues on total salaries and benefits for the district. Although Aspen ranked first with 83 percent, Aspen had more expenditures than revenues that year.

Howell said districts that spend higher percentages of revenue on salaries are able to use a voter-approved mill-levy override as a constant source of funding. The Steamboat school district has not placed such an override before voters.

A significant funding resource Steamboat has, however, is property taxes.

"You are one of the highest property tax-funded school districts in the state," Herrmann said Monday.

In 2001, Steamboat voters approved a property-tax increase that provides $773,000 a year for teacher salaries and benefits. The tax increase was proposed as a way for the district to attract and retain the best teachers.

Herrmann said district fin--ances are a matter of perspective.

"I think you have to determine who you want to compare yourself with," Herrmann said to board members. "And how much you want to ask your taxpayers to support you."

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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