July 10, 2013 - Though Lindbergh Schools' operating budget for the 2013-2014 school year includes a 2-percent raise for employees, salaries continue to fall short in comparison to nearby districts, according to Superintendent Jim Simpson.
The 2013-2014 operating budget is "very tight," Simpson told the Call, noting a surplus of less than $5,000 is projected on June 30, 2014. The operating budget projects expenditures of $61,576,532 with anticipated revenues of $61,581,211 — a surplus of $4,679.
Regarding the 2-percent salary increase, Simpson said Lindbergh's pay continues to fall short in comparison to its benchmark districts — six local school districts Lindbergh monitors to ensure its salaries remain competitive with districts competing for the same personnel.
Those districts are: Kirkwood, Mehlville, Parkway, Pattonville, Rockwood and Webster Groves.
"Before the recession, we were in the upper third of our benchmarks. Now we are in the lower third," Simpson said. "We have steadily cascaded downward. I sometimes don't understand how those other districts were able to outgun us that way, but they (did)."
In May 2011, the Board of Education approved a two-year salary schedule that provided teachers with a 3.87-percent salary increase for the 2011-2012 school year and a 1.78-percent pay raise for the 2012-2013 school year.
Board members discussed the 2013-2014 budget during a June 1 workshop session before voting unanimously to approve it June 11. Salary and benefit increases for the 2013-2014 year total slightly more than $700,000. To help fund those increases, the budget reduces various Business Services accounts — insurance reserve, postage, supplies, elections and band uniforms — by $292,500 and transportation by $95,000, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Triplett.
At the June 11 board meeting, Triplett said, "... We also discussed at the workshop how we moved some existing dollars from non-salary budgets over into salary categories in order to offer a 2-percent raise. We worked with the teachers' organization this year. That was voted on at the workshop as well to accept the teacher contract proposal and the raise.
"Also in this budget, we're building in 2 percent then for all other staff members on salary schedules or individual salaries in the case of administrators. So the 2 percent is evenly disbursed throughout all of the employees of the district ...," he added.
Of the reductions in the Business Services accounts, Triplett later said, "... We also did a four-year look back to make sure that enough money is in all those budgets to meet the needs of the district and serve the students. So there's no program being put at risk by shifting this money over for the 2-percent raise."
Simpson told the Call that Lindbergh's academic success is a result of attracting and retaining "crackerjack teachers."
"That's the name of the game. You do that and you are going to have outstanding education. Our staff is second to none, obviously ... Yet, I have to tell you right now we have lost staff and we're losing staff to other districts over salary ...," he said. "I don't know what to do about it because we have no money. The 2-percent (raise) was as aggressive as we could go ... We went into non-classroom accounts and cut to get that 2 percent.
"... A lot of districts in Lindbergh's position would have given a zero (raise) this year. They would not have cut. They would have said, 'We will give zero.' But Lindbergh is not an ordinary district. We find solutions to problems because we just can't stand to lose the race. We want to be excellent, and we moved heaven and earth to make that happen ..."