Falcon School District 49 considers 2 percent boost to pay, benefits

May 29, 2013 Updated: May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

An approximate 2 percent salary and benefits increase is on tap for 1,500 staff and faculty members in Falcon School District 49 under the proposed 2013-2014 budget.

At a work session Wednesday evening, D-49 board President Tammy Harold said she favors the boost.

The $82 million budget, up $2.5 million over this academic year's budget, will be on the agenda for approval at the June 12 board meeting, she added.

The wages and benefits package would total $1.8 million, said Brett Ridgway, the district's chief business officer.

Salary increases have been a point of contention for teachers and other employees, who have pleaded with the board at recent meetings for raises. Although employees received 2 percent increases for the 2012-2013 academic year, salary hikes had been frozen for the previous three years.

The district's financial picture is vastly different than in years past. Just two years ago, D-49 cut about $11 million and eliminated more than 140 jobs. After a massive reorganization and restructuring of the top leadership as well as its educational model, Ridgway said the district now ranks as one of the most fiscally healthy of the state's top 20 largest school districts, based on the state auditor's report.

"Cutting $11 million out of the 2011-2012 budget wasn't easy, but it was what we needed to do," Ridgway said, "and once we made that one-time adjustment, we've been able to grow.

"We're finally getting back to our high point of $82.5 million, which was our general fund budget in 2009-2010. In those four years, we've grown 15 percent, adding 1,800 students."

The district is continuing on a fast-paced growth course. Enrollment projections for the 2013-2014 academic year show 3.27 percent growth for an estimated total head count of 16,118, which includes charter as well as traditional schools. And, when a charter school, Goal Academy, transfers from state authority to the district in the fall, another estimated 3,000 students will join the district, pushing enrollment over 19,000.

It is the third largest school district in the Pikes Peak region, behind Colorado Springs School District 11, with about 29,000 students, and Academy School District 20, with about 24,000 students.

"We're on the path to move from the 18th largest district in the state to the 14th for 2013-14," Ridgway said.

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