FARMINGTON — Establishing a rainy-day fund seemed like a sound idea to most members of the Davis School District Board of Education.
But if it meant less money for teachers, board member Burke Larsen said it was wrong.
“I have never seen adequate numbers to actually reimburse our employees for what they’re worth,” he told the board in a workshop May 3.
“Why are we putting money away where we can’t use it?” he asked. “We’ve got to have integrity on the board that says we will fight for our employees’ salaries.”
In a presentation on the district budget for the upcoming school year, Craig Carter, business administrator for the district, outlined a budget that he said was “difficult but could be worse.”
Increased costs for retirement benefits for employees, which for the first time take a larger chunk of district funds than insurance benefits, have eaten into the extra funds granted by the legislature last year.
To avoid problems that happened during the recession, Carter recommended the board approve an “undistributed reserve,” sometimes referred to as an “economic stabilization fund,” and open it with a transfer of $2 million, one-tenth of the amount allowed by law for an entity the size of the school district.
Next year’s general fund is $415 million and rainy-day funds can be up to 5 percent.
The proposal passed in a 6 to 1 vote, with Larsen voting in opposition.
Board members supporting the fund called it “fiscally prudent” and pointed out that it is something other districts have, something that would help the district maintain a higher bond rating, and something that would protect employees in a downturn.
“Our primary commitment is hiring the best personnel we can to give the best education possible to our students,” said Kathie Bone, a board member. “I don’t see this as interfering with that commitment.”
Negotiations with the Davis Education Association were completed last month.
Employees will receive a one-time payment of $500 this fall, at a cost of $1.8 million to the district.
There will be no cost-of-living increase since a 1 percent increase would cost the district $3 million and be ongoing – “money we don’t have,” said Carter.
The district will reduce the employee portion of insurance payments from 12 percent to 6 percent, which will bring a slight increase in take-home pay.
DEA members ratified the negotiated salary benefits last month, with 87 percent supporting the adjustments.
Don Paver, president of the association, said that while some teachers were critical of the agreement, others understood the limitations, after considering a detailed letter he sent.
“Because we negotiate for several months and we see the numbers and the figures, I think we understand what it takes to balance the budget,” he said.
As part of the negotiation, Paver said the DEA asked the district to do a salary and benefits study to compare Davis School District salaries with those in other districts.
Carter agreed such an exercise would be valuable.
“We’re concerned that because we haven’t had a cost of living increase in years, that we’re below other districts not only in pay for teachers but administrators.
“We’ve lost some teachers to other districts,” he said. “We want to be competitive and we want to get the best people we can, so we do need to address our compensation.”