BVSD to host public budget hearing Tuesday

·4 min read

May 24—The Boulder Valley School District's proposed budget includes an additional $17 million for employee compensation; $12.5 million for school staffing, programs and student support; and $4.3 million for facility improvements, custodial services and maintenance.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, before the 6 p.m. school board meeting. To sign up to speak, virtually or in person, visit bvsd.org/about/board-of-education.

The district plans to use about $14 million of its $16 million beginning general fund balance on one time-expenses. The budget includes $2 million in one-time money to provide targeted staffing support to elementary schools with declining enrollment, as well as $2 million to hire additional staff members at schools districtwide where class sizes end up larger than expected in the fall.

Other plans for the money include $2.5 million to replace aging FOSS science kits, $1.1 million to hire five half-time high school coordinators for the Grad Plus plan, and $1.7 million in "seed money" to hire more teachers over three years to expand career and technical education options.

Through its general fund budget, the district plans to spend an additional $17 million on employee salaries and benefits, including giving all employees a 3.5% cost-of-living raise. The district and its paraeducators recently reached a tentative agreement that includes a 1.5% raise plus the 3.5% cost-of-living increase, as well as a $500 retention stipend for paraeducators returning in the fall, according to the paraeducators association.

But the district and its classified, or hourly, employees are at an impasse in negotiations, with the employee association saying the 3.5% cost-of-living increase isn't enough to get those employees to a livable wage. The district and the association disagree on whether the district is paying in 75th percentile range for salaries for each position, as determined by the district through a consultant based on peer school districts.

At a session Monday, the district offered $1 million for salary increases — up from the district's original $500,000 offer — to move some of the contested positions to higher salary ranges. But to afford the additional cost, the district wouldn't spend $300,000 as planned on eight "floater" positions to help cover jobs when people are out sick or a position is open.

Shawn Ciaramitaro, Boulder Valley Classified Employees Association president, countered that the district's proposal wouldn't get all the positions up to where he has calculated the 75th percentile range for salaries falls.

"There are still quite a few being left behind," he said.

The two sides agreed they are too far apart to reach an agreement. The next step is mediation with a third party. If mediation fails, the process would move to "fact-finding," a process in which a third-party arbiter hears evidence from both sides and issues a non-binding judgment.

"The district has been actively working very hard to try to find resolution," said Russ Bennett, Boulder Valley human resources director. "We are still open to conversations."

Along with a cost-of-living increase for regular employees, the budget includes about $300,000 to raise the pay rate for substitute teachers to $115 a day. Another $500,000 in one-time money would be set aside in case "surge pricing" is needed to entice subs to work on certain days.

Other proposed additions include a remote learning option for students who need accelerated math classes not offered at their schools, as well as an online reading intervention pilot with an online teacher working with students from different schools during their literacy time. The total cost for both programs is about $400,000.

To cover rising food costs, the district plans to raise its school meal prices by 50 cents, as well as to support the program with money from the general fund. The district also plans to continue to fund a full-time health room paraeducator at each elementary school for another year, as well as to replace end-of-life equipment in high school computer labs.

Another budget addition is $100,000 for a paralegal position, which district officials have said is needed because of an "astronomical" increase in public information requests.

"You have a small number of folks constantly submitting (Colorado open records requests)," Superintendent Rob Anderson said at a recent school board meeting. "With the number and the quantity and frequency, these things take a lot of time. We just don't have the bandwidth."

The school board is scheduled to approve the budget in June.