When teachers in the Amphitheater School District get their first paycheck this year, they will see a 2-percent increase in their pay in comparison to their pay last semester. They will also no longer have to take mandatory unpaid days off.
During last month’s school board meeting, the board voted unanimously to use its share of the $10 billion Federal Education-Jobs Bill that was signed into law on Aug. 10.
The legislation allocated about $212 million in education job funds and about $236 million in new Medicaid dollars to Arizona.
“The use of the bill can only be used by districts to retain existing staff, hire new staff, restore reduction in salaries and benefits, rehire (reduction-in-force) staff, implement salary increases, and eliminate previously scheduled furlough days,” Todd Jaeger, associate to the superintendent, explained in a document presented during the school board review session in November.
In that same document, Superintendent Vicki Balentine recommended the board retract Dec. 17 and May 26 as furlough days and reverse the 2-percent pay reductions for all of the district’s employees, which had been implemented as a cost-saving measures.
The district also will implement a 0.6 percent pay restoration on July 1 to offset a rate increase from the Arizona State Retirement System.
Funds through the Federal Education-Jobs Bill are available only through June 30, 2012.
“The hope here is that once this runs out, there will have been sufficient recovery in the Arizona budget system that we could continue it,” said Scott Little, the district’s chief financial officer. “That’s the intent. This is one-time money with an expiration date. The intent of the funds, from the federal level, (was) to avoid cuts and to avoid (them) for a long enough time period for economic recovery to occur.”
If the funding works as intended, the district would be able to maintain its current staff’s wages without implementing future furlough days.
Though Little is hopeful they will be able to carry on the same way once the funds stop, he feels it is too early to tell.
“Years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it was that long in the future, but given the current economic reality, it’s a long ways away,” Little said.
Each school district in Arizona is handling the funding differently amidst an uncertain economic future.
“We’re choosing to handle it this way,” Little said. “I think a lot of school districts are really holding the money back for next year.
“We chose to put a portion of the funds into this year and a portion of funds into next year versus making everybody wait until next year. We just chose to get it out to our employees now versus waiting.”