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Raises recommended for Pueblo teachers - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Raises recommended for Pueblo teachers

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PUEBLO -

After months of negotiation and arbitration, it appears that the roughly 1,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in Pueblo's School District 60 will be getting a cost of living raise. An independent fact finder recommended the district pay the extra $1.2 million to cover the cost of the raises as well as increased contributions to teacher health insurance plans.

Suzanne Ethredge, President of the Pueblo Education Association, said the raise is not all that different from the 2.8 percent cost of living adjustment her group had asked for when negotiations first began.

"We felt that this was very reasonable and our teachers have taken very minimal salary increases over probably the last 8 to 10 years," Ethredge said. 

The raises, if approved by the Board of Education, would apply to the current school year. Teacher paychecks would need to increase to retroactively cover the higher salary amounts dating back to September. However, the insurance contributions would only apply to the current calendar year.

District 60 negotiates a new contract with its teachers every year. A new round of negotiations could soon begin for the 2018-2019 salaries.  Previous negotiations have resulted in arbitration for the past three years.

In a statement released Friday, District administrators said they were disappointed by the final report and recommendation.  The administration told the fact finder it doesn't have enough money to cover the raises because of declining enrollment and will need to dip into savings. 

"The district maintains that paying for reoccurring costs out of district reserves is not a fiscally sound option," the statement reads.

Looking at the budget, D-60 has about $13.4 million in savings. Board policy dictates a minimum savings of 8 percent, but the fact finder noted that's well above the state mandated 3 percent reserve required by the TABOR amendment.

"We believe part of it is that the district is failing to budget for their employees on the front side," said Ethredge. "And so, when they establish their budgets, they are not building in any kind of an increase."

The fact finder also noted that District has $500 million backlog in building needs. Emergency repairs have already cost the district some $1.9 million this year.
Ethredge believes there are better ways for the district to pay for its building needs like asking voters for a mill levy increase or bond issue.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers in the Pueblo Metropolitan Statistical Area earn on average between $44,000 and 49,000 per year. That's slightly above the City's median household income of $42,000 per year as reported by the Census Bureau.

The fact finder calculated that the cost of living in Pueblo will increase by about 2.3 percent this year.

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