Lindbergh board OKs 3.3-percent pay hike for district employees

School board members hear updated enrollment numbers

By Mike Anthony

The Lindbergh Board of Education voted last week to approve a 3.3-percent salary increase for district employees for the 2014-2015 school year.

Board members voted 5-0 May 13 to approve the across-the-board pay increase for employees. Board members Vicki Englund and Kate Holloway were absent.

The board discussed the salary increase during a May 10 budget workshop. During the workshop, district officials said their goal was to increase teachers’ salaries so they are more competitive with surrounding districts.

Members of the Lindbergh National Education Association, or LNEA, voted May 12 and May 13 to approve the salary increase and a one-year contract with the Board of Education.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Brian McKenney told the board, “… Starting in March, (Chief Financial Officer) Chuck Triplett and I met regularly with the NEA representatives to discuss salaries for district staff for the upcoming year. These meetings were positive, collaborative and productive.

“We believe the recommended 3.3-percent increase in salary spending places the district in a better position to recruit and retain the best teachers and staff for our students …”

The increase in employee salaries and benefits for the coming school year is projected to total $1,459,700.

“… We should note revenue from corporate taxes, including the recently ended TIF (tax-increment financing) at Gravois Bluffs, will fund this raise for our staff, while ensuring Lindbergh continues to operate within a balanced budget,” he said. “Our recommendation is to approve the 3.3-percent increase to salary spending for staff for the 2014-’15 school year …”

Before the vote was taken, board Secretary Karen Schuster said, “… I’d just like to say I’m really glad we’re in a position that we can offer them a better increase this year. It’s well-deserved.”

For the current school year, district employees received a 2-percent raise. For the 2012-2013 school year, district employees received a 1.78-percent increase.

Superintendent Jim Simpson told the Call the pay increase and contract were overwhelmingly ratified by LNEA members.

“… Out of all the teachers we have, they only had three votes against (the pay increase and contract) …,” he said.

He also emphasized the 3.3-percent salary increase is only possible because the Gravois Bluffs TIF has ended.

“… We are very appreciative that finally over the years this thing is throwing new money back toward the school district …,” he said. “So we’re very happy that it’s finally come on the tax rolls. It couldn’t come at a better time because our teachers have had a long, long spell (of small salary increases).”

Though teachers will receive a 3.3-percent raise for the coming school year, Lindbergh’s pay continues to fall short compared to comparable districts. Teacher salaries used to be in the top third of Lindbergh’s benchmark districts — Kirkwood, Mehlville, Parkway, Pattonville, Rockwood and Webster Groves, Simpson said.

“… We have year after year after year after year paid substantially less in raises — or in some cases, almost no raise — and we have moved to the bottom third,” he said. “And so we’re going to try to slowly, methodically move ourselves back up to where our historic standing is. We know we’re not going to be the top-paying district. We understand that some districts have a lot more wealth than we do, but we definitely want to be a player and be in the top third so that we are able to recruit the best talent and retain the best talent.

“We have lost teachers to other districts in the last few years … They hated to leave us. They cried. But other districts could pay them substantially more money for the same job and it wasn’t much of a different drive. And they have kids in college and they need the money. We understand that.

“We want to make that to where that doesn’t happen anymore.”

In a separate matter, McKenney presented the board with updated enrollment projections, saying, “We attempted to account for the new subdivision at Grant’s View. It played a large role in our projections, and we added that as a component.

“We wanted to phase that population in over several years, as we believe that’s how it will happen.

The district’s enrollment now is projected to increase by 283 students for the coming school year.

“… This is a projection that takes into account students enrolling the entire period between now and the end of next school year. So enrollment occurs 12 months out of the year, not just before the first day of school,” McKenney said.

Over the next four years, the district’s enrollment now is projected to increase by 1,006 students, he added.