Higher balances could mean pay boost for Mehlville teachers

Extra $236 added last year to base salaries of teachers.

By EVAN YOUNG

Higher than projected balances at the end of the 2010-2011 school year could mean a pay boost for Mehlville teachers, as required by a memorandum of understanding between the Board of Education and certified staff.

The district’s end-of-year balances are expected to exceed projections by more than the $500,000 threshold established in the MOU that was approved earlier this year by the board and the Mehlville National Education Association, according to district officials.

As a result, half of the excess funds over $500,000 will be added to the 2011-2012 certified salary schedule as outlined in the agreement.

“The MOU, negotiated with the teachers and unanimously approved by the board in May, included a revenue sharing provision. Thanks to some positive surprises in June state revenues and aggressive cost cutting, that sharing provision will be triggered,” board President Venki Palamand told the Call. “Although exact figures have not yet been determined, I would estimate that both teachers and classified staff will see a very slight improvement in salary, perhaps in the 1-percent range.”

The additional funds will be added to teachers’ base salaries as determined by their step on the salary schedule. The increase will be permanently absorbed into the schedule barring any future pay decreases, Palamand said.

The district’s 2011-2012 budget was prepared with only salary channel changes in mind as certified and classified personnel salary steps were frozen at 2010-2011 levels. In the certified salary schedule, channels denote a teacher’s level of education. Each channel also includes steps that represent each year a teacher has worked.

“There will definitely be some adjustment to the step schedule, and that’s the way it’s going to be done — it’s going to be added uniformly to each step. So people will still stay on the same step. It’s just that the amount of the step will be changed,” Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch told the Call.

Knobloch said the exact amount of the salary adjustment would be finalized next month. He declined to give a working estimate of that amount.

Officials in May had projected a 2010-2011 budget surplus of only $132,000.

However, Knobloch revised that projection last month to reflect $775,000 in additional revenue and an additional $1.4 million in cost savings.

In all, the school district was projected to have $102,800,000 in revenues and $100,470,000 in expenditures at the close of fiscal 2011 — a roughly $2.3 million surplus — putting the district’s operating balance at a projected 16 percent of expenditures.

The increase in revenue is largely attributable to a $392,000 state formula payment that was supposed to come in 2009-2010 because of an increase in the district’s English Language Learner enrollment, Knobloch said. In addition, the district will get a higher-than-expected $230,000 in state sales-tax revenue, he said.

On the expense side, Knobloch said the district was able to save more than $700,000 in salaries and benefits due mainly to open positions; $353,000 on purchased services; $194,000 in supplies and $164,000 in capital costs.

An extra $236 was added to teachers’ base salaries last year after end-of-year balances exceeded projections by more than $200,000, the threshold agreed to by the board and MNEA in the previous MOU. That was in addition to individual pay increases ranging from 1.29 percent to 3.3 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

Knobloch said the “sharing” provision was included in the MOU “under the theory that if we got some surprises from the revenue standpoint or saved a lot on our expenditures, it seemed fair to share that because so many decisions are made based upon projections and forecasts. That’s not quite fair to employees to then come in and have a better result than you expected and then them not be able to participate in it …”

The provision’s inclusion in future agreements is subject to negotiations, Palamand said.

“Although any salary improvement is likely to remain in the certified salary schedule, the sharing provision negotiated this year only applies to the 2011-12 school year,” he said. “Mehlville is currently in a strong financial position, thanks to aggressive budget cuts, including eliminating four administrative positions, reducing classified staff and postponing maintenance.

“But at some point in the future, we will need to invest in our facilities,” he added. “Eventually, buses, parking lots, roofs and HVAC equipment will need to be replaced.”