SL School Board Approves Teacher Settlement For FY 2018

Wed 5-24-2017

(Spirit Lake)-- The Spirit Lake School Board approved a contract settlement with the district's teachers for the upcoming fiscal year during a special session this (Wed.) afternoon.

Superintendent Dr. Dave Smith tells KUOO news that other than increases for those with lane changes, that it represents pretty much a pay freeze. He says it's being driven in part by a decrease in enrollment and very little in allowable growth funding from the state...SL Teacher Settlement01 

"You know it's unfortunate that the budget is where it is and we had a little larger senior class graduate than the Kindergarten class coming in and so the budgets are tight and so we have to do what we have to do protect the district and the best interests of, you know, the budget long-term. Give our teachers a lot of credit, they work really hard, they're great professionals. They deserve to be paid well. This was a tough year, and so for them to work with the district to help us have longer term budgeting needs at the forefront it is very impressive and they should be commended for that."

Dr. Smith adds the combination of factors is also eating more and more into the district's cash reserves...SL Teacher Settlement02 

"We can see it already starting to slip away just because of a couple of years of slow allowable growth. It is what it is. Staffing wise we're cutting every year. I think we're cutting probably $500,000 this year. Every single year it seems like we're cutting just a little bit. Early retirement has helped us out in some ways where we haven't had to necessarily cut people, but we just absorb positions. You know, the one thing I will say is our board makes great decisions. Financially they ask a lot of tough questions. They're holding us accountable with our unspent balance and what we spend and the people that are in the district do a fantastic job of providing an outstanding education with limited resources. At some point I think it will turn around and the budget will be a little bit better and hopefully we can reward people and have a healthier budget. You just have to do what you have to do and this is how great districts get through tough times."

Roland Schmidt of the Spirit Lake Education Association tells KUOO news a change approved in this past session of the Iowa Legislature in collective bargaining laws also played a major factor in negotiations...Schmidt 

"It made for a big difference. What we can essentially discuss with the administration is base wages and everything else is either permissible, which means that both sides have to agree to talk about it and there were other items like insurance that were excluded, cannot be discussed, so it represents a big change. Naturally it doesn't change from a day-to-day thing what we do. You know our mission here is to teach kids and fortunately it's been a great opportunity and a great district to work in that way. A lot of changes are happening this year. There certainly are some questions about what are the long term impacts that will have on education. Certainly we disagree with a lot of the changes that have happened but our disagreement isn't with Spirit Lake administration, it's more disagreement with what happened in Des Moines."

The board also today (Wed.) approved renewals of the district's health and dental insurance packages for the upcoming fiscal year, maintaining a $500 deductible for employees enrolled in the program.