Teachers request more money

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By Nathan L. McBroom

After receiving only the minimum yearly salary increase for next year, local public school teachers are asking for a raise.

A representative from the Shelby County Educators Association made an appeal to the Shelby County Board of Education last Thursday night to give local teachers more than the state-mandated 1 percent salary increase.

Chellie Gaither, a representative from SCEA, did not specify exactly how much of an increase the teachers would like to see; however, she did inform the board that a 1 percent raise would not keep pace with the increase in the cost of living.

Gaither said the quality of local education depends on the board making local teachers feel appreciated and valued.

"If your work force feels valued, then they are going to bring nothing but their best, day in and day out," she said. "And that will lead to better test scores."

Due to budgetary restrictions, the Shelby County Board of Education agreed to the minimum salary increase for teachers at a board meeting on May 8.

Greg Murphy, financial coordinator for the district, said with a decrease in state and local revenues, the district - like the rest of the nation - has had to make tough financial decisions.

While the district would have liked to have done more, Murphy said it is important to keep in mind that the 1 percent increase is in addition to the annual step increase that teachers receive with each additional year of service. When the 1 percent raise and the step increase are added together, local teachers could see an increase in their salary of 2 to 2.5 percent, Murphy said.

According to U.S. Social Security Office estimates, the cost of living has increased by 2.3 percent annually in recent years.

Currently the starting salary for new teachers in Shelby County is $35,600. The average salary for a local teacher is $52,100 and some local classroom teachers are being paid well above $60,000 a year.

But Gaither said with gas and food prices skyrocketing, teachers could use some help from the board. If the board cannot give the teachers more money at this time, Gaither suggested that the board consider giving teachers a salary increase in January if student enrollment and state funds increase.

Along with a salary increase, Gaither also asked the board to consider giving teachers a third personal day each year.

While school board members listened attentively and sympathetically to Gaither's request for a salary increase, it is currently unlikely that they will increase in teachers salaries in the budget.

Later on in the meeting, board members heard a first reading of next year's tentative budget. In the proposed budget, the board's expenses are expected to exceed recurring revenues by $765,869. That would mean the board would spend 101.9 percent of its expected revenue. If this budget is followed it would be the first time in recent history that the money leaving the board would exceed that coming in. The extra funds would be pulled from the district's $4 million dollar reserve.

Board member Allen Phillips told the other board members that he did not like the idea of taking money out of the reserve to pay for recurring debts.

Allen and other board members asked those preparing the numbers to consider ways to reduce the budget so that expected expenses equal expected revenues.

Also at the meeting, board members, district officials and community leaders recognized Dr. Susan Cook for serving the community this past school year as interim superintendent. A reception was held in Cook's before the meeting began. After receiving tokens of appreciation from several local organizations, Cook told the audience she has enjoyed her time in Shelby County and has been impressed by the community. Cook is currently seeking employment in the northern Kentucky area.