The Columbia Board of Education didn’t vote on administrator’s recommendations regarding teacher raises Monday night because they want to see an even brighter picture painted.
The board was slated to take action on whether to raise the base pay of teachers by $1,000 to $1,200 with previously decided reductions, which included 50 staff positions eliminated. Instead, the board is ignoring that motion and asking for scenarios from administrators involving $1,200 to $1,500 raises to the base pay and restoration of some cuts. The district can do this by taking more out of reserves, but they would still be within recommended budget parameters.
“What a difference a month makes,” said Board Vice President Karla DeSpain, referring to the recent news of released state education funds and better budget predictions. “We could restore expenditures and increase salaries — I think there’s enough funds to do both.”
Jan Mees, president of the Columbia Community Teachers Association, noted that according to statistics, there hasn’t been a base pay increase of more that $1,000 since 1991.
Board members said they would leave it up to administrators to decide what reductions to restore.
“I want to be sure with response to restoring the operating budget that we work with the goals we’ve set,” said board member Don Ludwig. “I would support that.”
An increased operating budget may also affect funding plans for West Boulevard Elementary, the school designated to be a model school. Board member Elton Fay expressed concerns that funding this new project would take away money from other Title I schools, but Superintendent Phyllis Chase said the increased budget predictions would allow the administration to look at other budget options.
Administrators will continue to refine their recommendations to prepare the board to vote on the final budget, which is scheduled to be adopted on June 24.
In other news, board members heard a report on plans to create Boone County’s first business incentives package from members of a Regional Economic Development sub-committee. The incentives plan includes 50 percent property tax abatements lasting 10 years for new businesses making at least $15 million in capital investments, and it would be available to existing businesses that spend at least $7.5 million to expand.
—Missourian reporter Christie Smythe contributed to this report.