A proposed salary increase for new and current Columbia teachers would increase next year’s school district deficit by $2 million, a figure nearly equal to this year’s existing budget shortfall.
The increase, which would boost current teachers’ base salaries by $700 and raise the starting salary for new teachers to $33,000, would cost the district roughly $5.2 million. Raising the minimum salary alone would add just $330,000 to the district’s annual budget.
School officials have said the increase is necessary to keep the district competitive in attracting new teachers.
Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent for administration, said the district can expect to receive about $3 million in local and state money. The $2 million shortfall would likely be paid from the district’s existing reserve fund, said Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Lynn Barnett.
School Board President J.C. Headley said it is “very likely” the district will again face a budget deficit next year even without a salary increase.
The district will likely need to tap into the fund to cover a projected deficit of $2.3 million for the 2005-06 school year. The budget for the coming school year will be set around June, Headley said.
Headley said the salary revision could be done in two stages, with the first focused on raising the minimum salary. A base salary increase would follow, he said.
“The board feels that we need to do something to increase teacher salaries,” Headley said. A decision on raising minimum salaries could come as early as February to allow Columbia to be competitive in upcoming teacher job fairs, he said.
“I think the board looked at (the $330,000 increase) as an affordable figure for us,” Assistant Superintendent Mary Laffey said.
The almost $5 million needed to cover the base increase presents a bigger challenge in budget planning. Barnett said that as Columbia grows, more tax revenue is generated but new staff may be needed as well. Any new employees would add to the district’s costs.
“These aren’t just one-time costs,” Barnett said. “These are costs that occur over and over again.”
The school board does not plan to propose a tax levy or bond issue for the coming year to help get more money, Barnett and Cowherd said.
“If we were going to do it, it would be on the ballot in April, and it’s not going to be there,” Headley said. “But what goes on in ’07-’08 is a little too far out there to talk about now.”