Scottsdale Unified School staff gets significant pay increase
June 20, 2018
By Eric Newman
When the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board (SUSD) votes on the SUSD Maintenance and Operations Budget on June 26, staff will see a significant increase in pay.
A final budget proposal was presented to the board on June 12 and includes a 10 percent pay increase for certified staff including teachers, speech pathologists, guidance counselors and others the board deems certified. Classified, or hourly, staff pay increases will be 4 percent, while administrators will receive a 1 percent raise and substitute teachers will receive $8 more per day worked.
“I think that 10 percent was a goal for the teachers, because they really wanted to get into that double-digit range, which is also what the state had promised in its own funding announcement,” SUSD public information and marketing officer Erin Helm said.
Though she noted the state of Arizona added several millions of dollars to the budget, teacher salaries were originally slated to receive just a 3.56 percent increase, as the district could not afford the desired double-digit increase.
While looking at the 2017-18 financial year, the five-member governing board found the previous budget had money slated for unfilled staff positions, as well as a contingency (or “rainy day”) fund for emergencies that was over-funded for the needs of the district.
“It turns out more than necessary was put aside, so now looking at the next year’s budget, they realized we can actually use those extra funds to put toward staff salaries, without having to worry as much about where that pay increase can come from,” Helm said. “We’re still going to have that contingency fund, and based on our district size and the amount of people, we can confidently say that we’ll have enough to deal with whatever comes down the line still.”
Because the contingency fund money will be combined with additional funds coming from the state, Helm says no additional funds should be needed to increase staff salaries.
Though the budget will not be finalized until the official vote on June 26, the board has already voted on and approved the staff salary portion, which Helm says was made first priority.
“When our CFO brings the budget forward this month, that part is already approved,” she said. “There might be other discussions about moving money around other areas in the budget, but the salaries have already been approved, so they won’t impact that proposal.”
Helm also noted that budget discussions were not impacted by the indictment of former SUSD chief financial officer Laura Tenison Smith, who is facing 11 felony charges, including two counts of fraudulent schemes and practices and eight counts of conflict of interest from her time in office in 2017. “That whole process really doesn’t affect this budget at all,” she said.
But the raises in base salary still did not come easy, as the original proposed budget had just a 2 percent increase for classified staff, which includes employees such as security personnel and custodial workers. Some staff voiced displeasure to the board, so the increase was doubled to 4 percent.
Pointing out that Arizona is still near the worst in the United States in paying school district employees, Helm said the increases serve as progress toward rewarding the state’s hardworking staff properly.
“Anecdotally, I’ve heard the governing board now is hearing good things from those staff with the increase,” she said. “And I hope the teachers are happy with the raise, but as we know, Arizona is coming from behind, so teacher pay is still probably not as much as they want or deserve, but it’s a step in the right direction.”