To help make up for three years of salary freezes in the past, the Bayfield school board approved an increase in salaries of $1,100 for teachers with a bachelor's degree and $1,000 for those with their masters. With the pay raise, teachers also will have to work two more days a year.
The raise puts Bayfield's pay at the 75th percentile, or fifth of about 20 smaller rural school districts in the state, said Amy Lyons, the district's director of finance.
The pay raise will bring salaries up 3.9 percent over a two-year period, Lyons said, bringing Bayfield teacher pay ahead of Rifle, Gunnison and some other districts, and closer to Durango's, which is a larger district but competes for the same local pool of teachers.
While the pay raises will be welcome among staffers, it still won't make up for the so-called negative factor, several years of state funding that the Colorado legislature pledged - then took back - from the state's school districts, Lyons explained. Per pupil funding is a combination of local property taxes and state funding.
"What really set us back (in pay scales) was the negative factor from the state," Lyons said.
Board members unanimously approved the raises at their May 13 meeting.
"I'm glad to see movement being made to reward people," said board member Carol Blatnick.
Regarding this year's budget picture, Lyons said a big change is a potential increase, not another cut, in state funding. With a $110 million "buydown" in the negative factor, that would bring in about $150 to $180 per student in Bayfield, or about $150,000 to $180,000 total.
"This is money we should have been getting all along," Lyons said. What's bad for a small district like Bayfield is that the legislature is distributing money to districts through a formula that tends to favor students in urban areas, such as English language learners and schools that have high numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches.
"Those aren't huge for Bayfield," she said. Something that could help small districts, for example, she said, would be full funding of kindergarten programs, which the state funds at half of the per-pupil rate it pays districts for students in first through 12th grades.
While the state budget situation is improving somewhat, Bayfield schools are doing better financially than many small districts because of two mill levies passed by voters in 2004 and 2013, noted Superintendent Troy Zabel.
"Thanks to the community, we're in great shape," he said.
Also, as part of the bond issue extension passed by voters in 2012, the board approved $85,000 to buy cabinets for the music rooms, tables and chairs for a new commons area, and equipment for the new stage under construction at BHS.
The construction of the auditorium, new practice gym and baseball field are on target to open this fall, said Marty Zwisler, the district's construction manager on the project. Now that school is out, next week crews will shut down the BHS courtyard and start breaking into the exterior walls to join the new addition with the old building, Zwisler said.
"We'll be taking over the high school for awhile." While as much work as possible will be completed this summer, the whole project won't be finished until this fall after school starts, Zwisler said. "This is the last major phase of the project."
Zabel reported one piece of bad news, a water leak at BHS the weekend of May 10 that dumped about 3,000 gallons of water into the music rooms and lobby. A Bayfield deputy saw the water coming through the front door on Sunday, May 11, during a routine check of the school, or the damage could have been a lot worse, he said. There was four feet of water standing in the elevator shaft, he said. The good news is that it didn't happen the next weekend, which was graduation, and now the replacement tile and carpeting will match those in the new addition.
The leak wasn't from the new construction, but was an old interior water pipe that broke.
Zabel also said he had e-mailed a survey on communication home to parents, asking them to respond by May 30. Print copies are available at the administration building if anyone wants them.