Apr 19, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterAs the Fremont County School District 25 administration works to balance its budget this year, new changes may be implemented related to salary, retirement and health insurance.
Recent state legislation allowed an increase in the external cost adjustment for Wyoming public schools, and the extra funding can be used to help raise teacher salaries.
District 25 Superintendent Terry Snyder gave the school board examples of how to apply the 1 percent ECA increase for the 2014-2015 school year during a meeting April 9.
Legislation also has approved another 1 percent for the 2015-16 school year, but the district did not get the full percent and instead received a .625 percent increase. Snyder said this was because staff members who are hired now are younger with less education and experience.
"We're going to try to give them the 1 percent if we can do that," Snyder said.
Past practice in the district's salary schedule had applied an increase of more than 1 percent to those below the average salary base, while anyone above that average received a less than 1 percent increase.
Snyder proposed to the school board that they use that same structure or provide the same percentage increase to all staff members, regardless of where they were on the salary scale.
Snyder said the school board liked the new option.
"They thought that was equitable," he said. "I'm guessing that's what we'll end up doing."
The numbers got more complicated, however, because another increase in retirement benefits also is set to kick in. To offset that increase in the benefits contribution by the employee, Snyder said the additional 1.43 percent increase the district could help employees.
The state will provide $6 million for salaries in the 2015-16 school year, and if District 25 employees pay the same as other state employees, then the district can receive their share of the $150,000 for salaries.
Employees now pay only .25 percent and the district paid 1.43 percent on their behalf years ago when there was another retirement increase. Employees will have to pay an additional .375 percent but the district can help with another 1.43 percent to meet the 2.055 percent requirement. Snyder said if employees don't pay the 2.055 percent to the retirement system then the district won't be eligible for the $150,000 for 2015-16.
"We want to be as fair and provide as much financial benefit to our employees as we can do with a balanced budget," Snyder said. "We want to do what the state's asking that would benefit our employees."
Snyder explained that new option would roll off of the salary freeze the district did in the 2013-14 budget that didn't allow for staff salary increases except for horizontal movement on the salary scale, which reimburses teachers who get additional education. Snyder said they hope to provide the 1 percent increase for 2015-16.
"Right now our numbers are really close to being able to do that as we're coming off of the frozen salaries," he said.
Snyder also proposed a transition for employees in their health insurance plans with the new 4 Tier Insurance System that he said will be required in the future and was changed by the insurance companies. Currently employees are either in the single employee plan, employee and other, or family plan. The proposed new plan would be set as single employee, employee and a spouse, and employee and children or family.
The transition would help the single employee because he or she will soon have to pay the same percentage of health benefits as the family employee plan, which is 15 percent. The transition would be set at contributing 5 percent beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, 10 percent the following year and then 15 percent in three years, Snyder said.
"We want to help with that so it's not a big all-at-one-time change," he explained, adding that the board thought the three-year transition was reasonable, and the district would continue to look at all options to establish a balanced budget.
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