Earlier this week the Clear Creek County Education Association (CCCEA), and the Clear Creek School District (CCSD), teams met to continue discussions regarding two topics: compensation and the draft classified collective bargaining agreement, or CBA. This is the first time that classified employees in CCSD have had a CBA. We would like to share our gratitude to both sides for working through language and revisions.
Proposals from previous bargaining sessions were acknowledged. At the session this week, CCCEA proposed an 11% plus a step (equal to 2-2.5%) pay increase for certified educators, and a $3/hour increase be added to each level/cell of the classified salary schedule. CCSD proposed 6.25% plus a step for certified educators, and 7.25% plus a step increase for classified educators.
While both teams agreed to continue bargaining, with a focus on compensation, we have yet to land on a proposal that meets the requests of both teams.
Why are the proposals so different?
An easier question to answer is what is the same in both of these proposals. It is abundantly clear that both teams share a deep appreciation for all educators in CCSD. Both teams also recognize the cost of living in Clear Creek County has risen. Both teams share a desire to keep CCSD financially sound. Both teams acknowledge that state funding for education in Colorado is significantly below the national average. Both teams are excited about the direction of the district. Both teams recognize that CCSD is fortunate to have a reserve of funds.
The teams think differently about those reserves. Reserves are one time funds, meaning once they are spent, they are gone. Compensation is an ongoing, and oftentimes an increasing cost, so reserves cannot cover compensation increases over time.
CCSD has added to reserves over the last few years primarily due to the receipt of unbudgeted and unanticipated revenues. Some of those funds include ESSER dollars, grants, and other unanticipated funds. The board has worked to develop a strategy to spend down those funds over time. This strategy includes using a portion of the reserves for compensation for a defined number of years, and using a portion for essential facility issues. As we all know, our facility needs and issues far surpass our bond program.
Compensation increases support recruiting and retaining educators. Facility improvements do the same while also keeping us warm, safe, and dry.
What are the urgent facility needs that will come from reserves? King Murphy needs roof repair (approx. $500,000) and a preschool playground replacement (approx. $350,000). The water pump house at Clear Creek Middle & High School is in desperate need of repair. Kitchen safety items include exhaust replacement and suppression system replacement, totalling over $45,000. A site review & plan ($25,000) must be completed at CCMSHS soon, to begin the planning process for parking lot and baseball field improvements. None of these urgent needs are covered by our recent bond. They cannot all happen at once, and spreading costs and projects over time allows us to use some of the reserves for compensation increases. It’s an important balance to strike.
Reserves are a gift that won’t keep on giving, so we need to be cautious as we spend them down. When the reserves are depleted, we are left with really challenging issues to solve. Some of those might include staff reductions, combining classes, or asking taxpayers to approve another mill levy.
Put bluntly, we are building a budget that has more expenses than revenue. Reserves provide a buffer for only a handful of years. Future funding could change at the state level, enrollment could change, and we might secure future grant funding. While we hope all of those things come to pass, we must plan with what we know right now.
What about those raises?
Both teams agree educators are essential to the success of students. Both teams agree that educators deserve a pay increase. Both teams agree that whatever compensation increase is provided, it is still not enough. An important point to note, this issue is a fundamental one that is much larger than our district and our state.
Housing costs have increased significantly in the last two years, impacting the workforce across sectors. Inflation continues to rise. And, in CCSD, enrollment continues to decline. Yet, raises over the past five years in CCSD have amounted to over 17.75%. The current CCSD compensation proposal would place this number at 24%. The Board is proud of this accomplishment, while also acknowledging there is still work to do to put CCSD educators in a competitive place in terms of salaries.
The CCSD Board of Education is committed to providing raises to all educators, each year, in a fiscally responsible manner. The question the Board has wrestled with for months is “what’s the most we can do for our educators, in a way that is sustainable?”
CCCEA’s compensation proposal would provide a significant and well-deserved increase. CCSD’s compensation proposal would provide a lower increase but be sustainable over time. Both teams have proposed compensation increases; the resulting decisions and impact from each are what varies.
Additional efforts to recruit and retain educators include the shift to a four day school week for the upcoming school year, facility improvements in every building, and changes to PTO pay out for all educators. In order to make the four day schedule happen and do what’s best for kids, we committed to families that students have opportunities on the fifth day. The fifth day, COMPASS Day, has been a heavy lift, and led by multiple grant funded district employees.
A plea to balance advocacy with safety
Recent posts on social media indicate a planned “walk in” for Monday, May 16th at schools. Advocacy, shared voice, standing up for students and educators everywhere is admirable. A plea: please consider the safety concerns as members of the public are invited to walk into schools. Only educators and family members of students will be allowed to enter school buildings. To ensure students are safe, you may notice increased safety measures and supervision at each building on Monday morning.
Gratitude for all educators
Together we will secure a budget that provides a compensation increase for all educators, supports the teaching & learning shifts, and addresses our system wide and urgent facility needs.
With deep appreciation,
Superintendent & Lead Learner