All Belen School District employees except two will receive a 2 percent pay raise starting July 1.

The Board of Education approved the 2002-03 budget that included the raises, along with the addition of 24 new personnel positions.

Belen’s two top administrators, Superintendent Don Duran and Brad Phillips, executive director of operations, volunteered to not receive pay raises. “We feel it’s important to let our employees know we put them before ourselves,” Duran said.

The budget was built on last year’s unit value prior to the state budget being approved but will be amended to reflect the changes at the board’s July 9 meeting.

“Because we had to present our budget to the State Department of Education prior to the legislature setting the unit value, we built this budget on last years unit value against the projected student enrollment for this year,” said Phillips.

“Now we know the unit value will be $25 more then last year, so we will get approximately $200,000 more than the budget the board approved. We will bring the budget adjustments back to the board at the July 9 meeting.”

The district administrators will be working with a $47.9 million budget, beginning July 1, that includes a $27.95 million for operational expenditures.

Of the operational budget, 73 percent, approximately $20.4 million, is earmarked for personnel.

“Two-thirds of the district’s employees are paid out of the operational budget,” said Phillips. “The bus drivers and cafeteria employees are paid from separate state funds for those departments.”

“How does this 2 percent overall raise compare with other districts in the state?” Board President Julian Luna asked Phillips during the Tuesday meeting. “We want to ensure to our employees that we are going as far as we can within the money provided by the state.”

“A State Department of Education analyst told us that, out of the 10 school districts in his cluster, no one is giving more than 2 percent,” Phillips said. “There are only a couple of districts in the state giving 3 percent raises. Most districts are in the 2 to 1 percent range.”

The cost-of-living increase this year is 1.6 percent, according to Phillips.

“So, we are above the cost-of-living increase,” he said. “Hopefully, the employees will see more in their take-home pay. Last year, the insurance increase took away from some employees to where they saw less in their take-home pay.”

This year’s increase in the health care benefits will be a 13.5 percent increase for Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage, 9 percent increase for the Lovelace health plan, and 9 percent increase for Regional HMO coverage.

Also, the retiree health care payroll tax will increase from 1 percent to 1.3 percent. This cost is not passed on to the employees, according to Phillips.

The board also approved the district’s 2002-2003 salary schedules. Phillips said there were no changes in the starting salaries, except for the teachers’ salary schedule, which has a 1 percent increase. The maximum salary on all schedules went up to reflect the 2 percent increase.

The budget also addressed the increase in staff to respond to the projected enrollment.

“We are projecting an increase in enrollment of about 100 students,” said Phillips of the 4,933 students the district is preparing to greet in August. “This figure is the highest count of our 40-, 80- and 120-day counts for this past year. The growth will be mostly at the high school.”

To prepare for those extra students, the district will be hiring 16 additional teachers this summer, causing the total number of certified employees to be 347 full time equivalence (FTE). Six of the new positions will be in regular education, while 10 will be in special education.

“I would like a report on how our pupil-teacher ratio compares to other school districts of or size,” Board Member Paul Trujillo said to Duran.

“We have worked hard to keep our ratio down. Perhaps the money has not been in the individuals’ pay checks, as they would like, but it has gone into having lower pupil-teacher ratios, which helps the teacher in the classroom.”

“I think we will meet or be below state recommendations,” said Duran. “The state department has commended Belen because we are doing better than three years ago. I think some of that is the result of our better report to the state of our statistics by Kathy Roselli.”

“We have focused on instruction in this budget,” Phillips said.

Other personnel additions will be in the technology support staff. Three technicians will be added to the staff, including two 180-day employees and one year-round person.

A secretary will be hired to serve the technology and human resource departments.

Additional staffing changes will include:

  • Extending the high school registrar’s work year by 41 days.
  • Increasing the middle school security staff by one person.
  • Adding five days to the high school counselor’s contract.
  • Adding three employees in the maintenance department.
  • Extending a high school custodian’s work day from half time to full time.

The district will also be making some changes in its maintenance operations and custodial staff.

The district will be implementing the facility management pilot program, in which the custodians at Central, Rio Grande and La Promisa elementary schools will report to Frank Ortega, the maintenance supervisor.

“We are trying to take some of the pressure off of the site administrator,” said Luna. “We want our principals to concentrate on education.

“The other schools will eventually be placed into this same supervision structure,” Phillips said.

Meanwhile, the district is establishing head custodians at the remaining elementary schools.

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Jane Moorman