UPDATE: Columbia Public School District employees could receive pay raises

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 8:56 p.m. CST; updated 9:26 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 9, 2011

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public School District employees could see one additional year of pay increases if the Columbia School Board approves a finance committee proposal on Monday.

The Columbia Public Schools Finance Committee discussed the salary schedules of district employees at its meeting Wednesday night. It will propose to the board that all district employees receive an additional year in which the district will increase their salaries by a specific percentage. After that point, contributions are constant.

The cost is expected to be just under $85,000 for increases in all salaries across the district, Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley said. Quinley said the increase helps cover the cost of retirement, which rises 0.5 percent every year.

The committee will also propose an expanded 20-year salary schedule for the district's occupational and physical therapists. These employees must personally cover the costs of renewing professional licenses and professional development, which can exceed $500 every two years, Assistant Superintendent Mary Laffey said. The district does not offer the courses they are required to take.

"They are paying to work for us," Laffey said.

The board will vote on these measures, as well as whether to operate teacher salary schedules, at their meeting on Monday.

"The board has to make the final recommendation for the budget, but all along we’ve been building a budget that was predicated on the operation of salary schedules," Laffey said. "But the board will have to finalize that recommendation to go forward in order to issue contracts."

The board voted last month to accept the budget guidelines that let teachers move up the pay scale, but the guidelines are not set in stone.

Laffey said that though the board does not accept every recommendation brought to it, the plan all along has been to include the salary increases in its budget for next year.

Quinley said that the district is more optimistic about state funding, which takes pressure off the district dipping into its savings.

"It looks like we won’t be deficit spending next year, but rather the year after," she said. "State funding could be a little better next year, but drops off after."

Superintendent Chris Belcher said the district needs a funding increase of $3.5 to 4 million per year to cover yearly expenditures.

"I still believe that given the economic news that we have at this point in time, we are moving forward with operation of our schedules," Laffey said.

The Columbia School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

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