After hearing from teacher Art Boehle on Thursday, June 9, the Alton School Board unanimously approved pay raises for all employees, at a cost to the district of about $200,000 per year.
Alton R-4 Schools Superintendent Sheila Wheeler presented a more conservative plan that would have upped teachers' base rates by $500 each, with a 1.8 percent step increase.
Instead, the board went with one of five options that Boehle presented for teacher raises, each costing about $170,000 in salaries and benefits.
Wheeler said her plan would have been viable for a longer period, as state funding has been dwindling each year.
"I feel like what I recommended is sustainable for a couple of years," Wheeler said. "I think it's pretty amazing that we're sitting here talking about this. I don't know of any other districts that are."
At a previous meeting, the board eliminated a few teaching positions, as have other local districts, including Couch.
Wheeler estimated her plan would cost the district an additional $111,000 for teacher pay raises and $23,000 for non-certified staff. She predicted the district could afford one of Boehle's proposed plans for one year.
"I think we could do this next year," Wheeler said of Boehle's proposal. "Beyond that, I'm concerned about state funding and decreased enrollment."
Boehle said he polled teachers and learned that some preferred a base rate increase, some wanted an increase to the amount the district pays toward career ladder, and some preferred a combination.
Boehle said teachers would also understand if the increase would have to be taken away after next year.
"We're reasonable people," Boehle said. "We can understand if we don't have the money."
Teachers at the meeting said the increase to the career ladder program is not actually a raise, since most teachers lost about $3,000 last year when the state slashed career ladder funding. Two-teacher married couples lost $6,000, they said.
The district last year funded 40 percent of career ladder pay.
The new proposal the board approved calls for the district funding 70 percent of career ladder, which will cost the district about $88,000 next year. The $200 base pay increase will cost $18,000 and the pay step increase and insurance will cost about $64,000 more next year.
Elementary School Principal Shane Benson said that to increase career ladder funding instead of a base increase does not benefit those in administration.
Wheeler said that instead of relying on career ladder pay, teachers have the opportunity to do Saturday work at $20 per hour and other paid tasks throughout the year.
Non-certified staff pay
Next, the board heard Wheeler's recommendation for a pay increase for non-certified staff of 1.8 percent for teacher's aides and 15 cents per hour for custodians. Bus drivers will now earn $3.25 per hour and 35 cents per mile. The combined increases will cost the district $23,000.
Before approving the plan, the board added a $1,000 base rate increase to administrative secretaries' pay, which had not been part of Wheeler's proposal.
Board Chairman Mike McElmurry said he worried that approving the additional pay for secretaries would make the rest of the staff feel as though they are not as important.
Both issues passed unanimously.
In other business:
* The board approved trading in two old buses and buying two new ones from Central States for a total cost of $130,790. The board heard that the district has a plan to replace two of the district's 15 buses each year. Last year, district buses were driven 190,000 miles and consumed 26,000 gallons of fuel.
* The board approved increasing breakfast prices by 5 cents and lunch by 10 cents in order to continue participation on the federal school food program.
*The board heard that the archery supplies for the coming school year have arrived and cost $2,900. Teacher training will be from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 16.
* The board heard that 44 percent of Alton's 2011 graduates were enrolled in the state's A+ program to earn college tuition. Upcoming changes to the program will affect the 2015 graduates, who must still perform 50 hours of unpaid tutoring, although 25 percent of that will be allowed as job-shadowing.