School Board approves 10 percent pay raise
By David Boyle
At their latest meeting members of the school board approved an employee raise, saw a draft of the budget and made plans for graduations.
At their May 10 meeting, members of the San Juan School Board approved a raise for district employees following a negotiation between the district and the San Juan Education Association.
Licensed employees received a $4,200 raise as a result of a bill passed by the Utah State Legislature in their latest session.
An additional salary schedule base increase of five-percent to the current licensed salary schedule approved through negotiations equaled an equivalent increase between 10.29 and 13.78 percent for licensed employees.
The board also approved a 10 percent increase to the salary schedule base for current classified and administrative salary schedules.
Bus Driver salaries also were raised, and an activity supervision stipend for after-school use of buildings was approved for high school principals and assistant principals in the amount of $5,000, with $2,500 for middle school and Navajo Mountain principals and $1,000 for elementary school principals.
The district also approved a policy giving first year licensed staff their annual accumulation of sick leave in their first month of employment.
Superintendent Ron Nielson shared that the changes were made in part to keep the district competitive when it comes to employee hiring and retainment.
“We took a really thorough look at how we compared with LEA’s (Local Education Agencies) across the state. We wanted to look and make sure we’re competitive in all areas.”
At the meeting, district employee Rich Monson shared the education association’s gratitude to district administration and the school board.
“The San Juan Education Association is grateful for all that you (the board) do and we wanted to express our appreciation for the superintendent. He’s gone above and beyond to help work with us to facilitate meetings and to always do his best for the teachers in this district.”
When asked about what the raises meant for taxes, District Business Administrator Tyrel Pemberton explains that while the districts certified tax rate and final assessed valuation have not yet been received by the county, the proposed budget assumes property taxes will be the same as the prior year
“The budget that we’ve created, that includes the proposed increases, are assuming utilizing the certified tax rate. So holding revenue neutral, not any proposed increase to tax rates outside of the certified tax rate.”
At the meeting, members of the board took a first look at a draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition to the negotiated raises for district staff Pemberton highlighted other key data points in the 89-page draft.
Among the highlights was the district’s participation in the Community Eligibility Provision which provides a universal meal plan under the National School Lunch Program.
The program allows eligible districts and schools to provide meal service to all students at no charge regardless of economic status.
The district was originally approved into the program in 2014, and was approved for an additional four years in the program in August of 2022.
Demographic data, school allocations for supplies and equipment, and individual fund budgets are also part of the draft budget.
Pemberton noted the district’s low local tax revenue comparative to the rest of Utah, adding “San Juan School District remains one of the lowest in state as far as assessed valuation per student and property tax collected per student.”
The draft budget can be found on the district website. Members of the board will vote to approve a fiscal year 2024 budget at their June meeting.
At the meeting members of the board also made plans to attend graduation and advancement ceremonies throughout the district. (A story no those events can be found on page A1)
Members of the board also discussed the stakeholder survey results and received a report on the district River Region LAN Access project.
The project implemented near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic brought extensions of the districts wifi to remote areas of the Navajo Nation for students to continue their education.
Nielson reported the program has brought basic services to over 400 homes in the southern part of the district.
“There was a day we would never envision this might be. We talked about the digital divide. This has been a tremendous help in all those areas, hanging on to it and keeping it going will be a challenge.”
Nielson explained that the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) representative Kristan Norton as well as USBE superintendent Patty Norman have been proactive working with the district, Utah Education Telehealth Network and local legislators to help the district find funds to provide maintenance support for the project.
Nielson reports that while state senator David Hinkins has committed to running a bill for the funds, the effort to keep the River Region LAN Access project is not finished yet.
At the meeting members of the board also recognized two employees with a San Juan Sweet Job award.
MacNeal Crank and Conan Benallie were both recognized by the board for their work in the district.