Lindbergh board corrects error in salary increases

Despite approval of salary correction, workshop slated after Call’s press time

By Mike Anthony

The Lindbergh Board of Education voted 5-2 last week to correct an error and grant higher 2014-2015 salary increases for two employee groups.

Voting to approve the pay correction were board President Kathleen Kienstra, Vice President Don Bee, Secretary Karen Schuster and board members Gary Ujka and Vicki Lorenz Englund.

Opposed were board Treasurer Kara Gotsch and board member Kate Holloway.

As the Call previously reported, after July paychecks were issued, a mistake was discovered in pay rates for administrators and Early Childhood Education staff, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Triplett.

Those two groups should have received increases totaling 5.3 percent — the average raise for district employees for the 2014-2015 school year, he said.

Instead, those employees received a 3.3-percent increase in their salaries. The impact of the proposed pay adjustment on the district’s 2014-2015 budget totals roughly $90,564, which also includes associated benefits.

The district’s budget remains balanced, as it projected a surplus of $77,028. The remainder will be transferred from existing business services accounts when the board adopts a revised budget in December, Triplett said.

Though the board voted Aug. 11 to approve the pay correction, a workshop to discuss the salary package was scheduled Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

In determining the amount of money available for salaries, Triplett calculated additional funds created by the retirement of teachers at the higher end of the salary schedule who are replaced by new teachers who make less money.

That money — a 2-percent increase over the previous year — was combined with an additional 3.3-percent revenue increase from the end of the Gravois Bluffs tax-increment financing district last September.

Gotsch requested that action on the pay correction be postponed until the issue could be discussed during a board workshop, noting that all previous documentation presented to the board had indicated employees would receive a 3.3-percent pay increase.

At the meeting, Gotsch said, “… Let me say, first of all, Chuck, I really do respect you called and said, ‘Hey, I made a mistake.’ I appreciate that. Not everybody does that. But to me, it’s not — the issue is not the $90,000. The issue is when we voted in May, we voted for a 3.3-percent raise. It’s in the newspapers. It’s in the resolutions …”

Kienstra said, “I think right now what’s on the table is the correction of the salary package as it is. It’s the correction so that the two groups that did not get paid appropriately do get paid.”

Gotsch said, “But I do not think they got paid appropriately. I think that’s the problem, and that’s why I don’t feel we’ve had sufficient time to analyze the situation. I mean, up until (Aug. 7), my understanding was everybody got a 3.3-percent increase. That’s what we approved, and then …”

Kienstra interjected, “I think our approval was a 3.3 (percent) over the original salary in new money, in addition to the 2.0 (percent) that was already approved.”

Gotsch later expressed surprise that the money from teacher retirements was factored into the salary pool.

“… We do these retirements to save money. We have never just like saved the money and said, ‘Yay, that’s extra money we can just tack onto it.’ We’re too fiscally conservative for that,” she said. “What we do is we save that money that’s part of our pool for money and then when we look at it, we say, ‘OK, this is the amount of money we have.’ If we were looking at giving a 5.3-percent raise, we should have been told we are giving a 5.3-percent raise. We should not have been told we are giving a 3.3-percent raise …”

Englund later said, “… I think clearly we need a little bit more specificity as to exactly what the 3.3 is in relation to how it was discussed and the context in which the 3.3 percent was discussed. But when you look at the situation, the motion that’s on the table right now is to make all of our staff whole … If there was an error that we need to have more discussion about, I’m all for doing that. But this motion basically puts everybody at the same place…”

Gotsch said she agreed with Englund “100 percent …”

Kienstra said, “May I interrupt a minute? I think your conversation’s going around in a circle, and what I’m saying now is I would like to have the opportunity to have a motion and to vote on what is on the agenda of the correction of the 2014-2015 salary package distribution.”

Holloway later said she had been attempting to obtain more information, but “I just don’t know where this came from … As Kara said, I don’t know if this would have passed at 5.3 at the time, and it’s a matter of principle because it depends on which side you’re on. I mean as far as Lindbergh, we are blessed and we’ve been blessed with a very supportive community. And if you put the scope of $90,000, it’s another teacher. It is maybe two substitutes …”

Kienstra said, “However, we cannot keep — we cannot keep the group that didn’t get the raise at that level and allow those that did get the raise to get that level.”

She later suggested the board vote on the motion and then place a discussion on the agenda for September. But Gotsch wanted to table the motion until a special meeting could be called for the following week.

“… One week is not going to make that big of a difference …,” Gotsch said.

Kienstra said, “I’m going to say that we do have a motion on the table at this point, don’t we?”

After being told there was a motion on the table, she continued, “We do have a motion on the table right now, that we will vote on this motion …”

Kienstra noted that she and Superintendent Jim Simpson establish the agenda and said the issue would be placed on next month’s agenda.

“… I don’t think it’s necessary to have a special workshop next week,” she said, noting board members would have a month to study the issue.

Gotsch said, “… I’m going to vote ‘no’ on this and it’s not because I’m not looking for equality or anything else. It’s because I truly do fear that by — when we vote ‘yes,’ we’re ratifying that 5.3 percent, and ratifying the action, and I don’t think we approved that … I think it’s premature to vote. I think we should be figuring out what happened before we vote on this, and I want everybody to be equal and I think every person deserves that in their paycheck …

“It’s not that I’m against administrators or ECE. I love ECE …,” she added, noting her daughter attends ECE. “However, I’m not here for ECE and my daughter. I’m here for everybody else in this entire district that voted for me, and I want to make sure we’re doing this right.

“I think we’re voting prematurely, so I’m going to be forced to vote ‘no’ …”