Despite growing budget concerns and looming teacher layoffs, some East Valley School District administrators were given big salary increases last year.
The increases, ranging from 7 percent to 23 percent, reflect state-funded and required increases in salary and benefits, as well as a competitive bump to keep East Valley salaries in line with what other district officials in the area are making, district officials said.
District athletic director Joseph Kostecka went from a $71,490 annual salary before benefits in 2005-2006 to $87,666 in 2006-2007 – 23 percent more.
Assistant Superintendent Jan Beauchamp received a 16 percent increase, from $87,118 to $101,188.
The principal at East Farms Elementary School, Charlene Wellington, went from $81,154 to $93,169, or an increase of 15 percent.
Some of the raises aren’t as large as they appear, Superintendent Christine Burgess said. Previously, district administrators were given fully funded family medical plans, Burgess said. That benefit was discontinued, and the money paid for medical premiums was converted to salary to reduce escalating insurance costs.
So, while the district used to contribute $17,377 to cover Beauchamp’s family health plan, it now contributes $11,454. Take away the $5,923 difference and his actual pay increase was 9 percent, rather than 16 percent.
For Kostecka, benefits paid went from $13,160 to $8,913, and Wellington was paid $17,134 in benefits and now receives $8,913.
“It’s money that we would have spent anyway,” Burgess said.
The salary changes also include an increased number of required workdays. The administrators are year-round employees, required to work 218 days, or just shy of 45 five-day weeks. They can be paid for unused vacation days.
The raises are an issue that has a small group of parents in the district seeing red.
“They aren’t having summer school for our kids, but they give themselves big raises,” said Sarah Emert, whose children attend East Farms. “They are just taking money away from the kids to buy loyalty.”
Last month district officials provided a list of recommendations for $1.8 million in budget cuts for the troubled district, including the elimination of nearly 17 teaching positions. Summer school for grades K-8 was also canceled.
Burgess said the salary increases for administrators were negotiated before the district learned in December of a miscalculation in expected revenues and expenses that contributed to the budget crunch.
Burgess said in previous news reports that the former business manager “grossly overestimated” revenue and underestimated expenditures, leaving the district with $600,000 less than expected, and $500,000 more in expenses. The business manager, Rich Cook, has since died.
The miscalculation will leave the district with less than $100,000 in savings at the end of this school year, or about 0.3 percent of its budget. Most districts try to set aside between 3 percent and 5 percent.
The salary increases for the district’s top chiefs – including for building principals – were approved by the school board in November, and retroactive to July 2006.
The salaries of several administrators had been unchanged since 2002, when previous Superintendent Michael Jones issued a freeze to help with the financial effects of the district’s declining enrollment. District officials expect 100 fewer students to walk through the doors next year.
Annual step increases were built into the pay schedule but were not paid, Burgess said.
Burgess said the increases were also needed to bring staff salaries on par with what other local school districts pay their administrators.
“If you were a new principal and you came into our district, you were getting much, much less,” Burgess said. “So, why would you want to come here?”
Salaries for principals and administrators in comparably sized districts show that with pay raises, East Valley’s officials make a similar wage.
West Valley’s high school principal made a salary of about $107,000 in 2005-06. In the Cheney School District, a high school principal made about $97,000. East Valley High School Principal Jeff Miller receives about $94,000. His salary was increased to about $105,000 before benefits for 2006-07.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for elementary and secondary education administrators in Washington was $82,570 in 2005.
“I’m uncomfortable with them making that much when our district is struggling so much,” said East Valley parent Gail Groth. “If we are a poor district with low numbers, I personally don’t feel we should be on par with what other districts are making; this district is supposed to be for the betterment of our kids.”