Teachers’ union officials don’t believe the Douglas County School District recently discovered the $2.8 million it’s now awarding to teachers as additional bonuses.
“They have always had this money,” Douglas County Federation vice president Courtney Smith said this week. “I think they wanted to be able to give this money to the employees themselves and not make it look like it came from union negotiations.”
The added compensation brings teachers’ total raise to roughly 3 percent, the same amount union officials proposed giving them during its failed summer negotiations with the district.
The board in early July approved a 1 percent raise and 1 percent retention bonus for teachers who signed contracts by June 15.
Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen announced the second bonus during the school board’s Aug. 21 meeting, saying the district found the money after the close of the fiscal year on June 30.
“In developing that fourth-quarter report, we’re able to finally clear budget lines and see what projections were versus the actuals,” Fagen told the board. “This is really new information. But we were hopeful we could put it in front of you to get it to our employees as soon as we could.”
Most of the money came from savings on utilities and lower-than-expected costs for substitute teachers, she said.
With the board’s approval, both bonuses will be included in employees’ September paychecks.
Repeatedly during the unsuccessful summer negotiations, the union proposed a 3 percent pay increase for teachers, saying they’d found sources for the money within the budget. District officials consistently responded that the idea was financially untenable and fiscally irresponsible.
Union officials proposed the raise in several configurations, including a 1 percent ongoing raise and 2 percent bonus, or a 2 percent ongoing raise and 1 percent bonus.
The collective bargaining agreement expired June 30 despite more than 100 hours of negotiations. The pay increase and a district request that the union remove contract language designating it as the exclusive bargaining agent were among several sticking points in the negotiations.
The union has since filed a so-far unanswered request for intervention with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that it hopes will prompt an agreement.
Fagen said the second bonus, ongoing raise, retention bonus and $2.2 million in increased public employee retirement contributions the district is paying add $10.6 million to total employee compensation for 2012-13. It’s a significant amount, she said, but after four years of pay freezes is not ideal.
“It’s certainly not what we’d like to do, but we’re getting there,” she said.
Fagen said the examination of fiscal year funds suggests more good news.
“We also think it’s possible we’ll be able to provide additional dollars to our schools earlier than we thought possible,” she said.
The board also announced this week it would devote $150,000 to a school supplies fund for teachers. It’s taking the carryover dollars from a budget designated for items including board travel and conferences.