Teachers Win Raises, Schools Lose Staff

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The board members of the Payson Unified School District formally adopted its $13.6 million, six-months-in-the-making budget for the 2001-2002 school year at their Monday evening hearing.

"What does the adoption of this budget mean for this upcoming school year? It means we keep operating," PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said, prior to the meeting.

"This budget will place into effect teacher raises that we approved earlier this year but it provides little or no expansion of any kind, because expansion is always at the cost of losing something else."

Even without expansion, Weissenfels said, the new budget dictated some unfortunate losses.

"We lost our director of personnel, and that was a tough one," he said. "We lost a supervisor in maintenance and one in transportation. Those were all very disappointing cuts. We lost some secretarial and maintenance help. So we had to take cuts all the way around."

On a more upbeat note, Weissenfels said, "This budget brings our teachers' salaries more in line with the state average. We're certainly not caught up all the way, but it does make a significant impact on improvement in that area.

"That was the goal we set out to accomplish," he said, "and that's what the thing we went after, that's what was accomplished."

The bare-bones restrictions of the new budget echoed throughout the board's subsequent general meeting. Whenever the question of funding sources arose, PUSD Business Manager Bobbette Sylvester would reiterate, "All the money in the budget has been allocated ... We didn't budget for contingencies ... The budget is thinner than I've ever seen it ..."

At one point, Weissenfels remarked, "There is no safety net any more."

Such remarks were most commonly uttered during a request for one additional full-time staff member by Payson Center for Success Principal Monica Nitzsche. Still, after much labored discussion, the board approved the hiring, under the condition that it be funded by existing PCS monies, with the remainder to come from a $55,000 chunk of Proposition 301 money which had been earmarked for the creation of intersession classes by principals at each school in the district.

Proposition 301, voted into reality last November, provides for an increase of six-tenths of one percent (from 5 percent to 5.6 percent) in the state sales tax for 20 years to be spent by schools on everything from building repair to teachers' salaries. Sylvester has estimated that the amount of Proposition 301 due area schools is around $860,000.

In other PUSD business, the board:

Agreed to allow the Payson Education Association (PEA) to select one of its members to take a seat at the Superintendent's Advisory Council (SAC) negotiations table. Following the meeting, PEA members, who claim to have the support of 65 percent of the district's certified teachers, selected their organization's current president, Rim Country Middle School counselor Ginger Sparks, to be their SAC representative.

Approved a new cross-country track program for RCMS, to be financed by Credit for Kids funds.

Received information updates on two lingering district issues microbiological contaminants at Payson Elementary School, which were detected last Christmas "virtually all over the school," and the stadium wall that has been long planned for Payson High School.

Joe Martin, the district's director of support operations, said that the solution to solving the mold problems was to first replace Payson Elementary's existing evaporative coolers and furnaces with combination air conditioning/heat pump equipment. Secondly, the carpeting would be replaced by a mold-resistant, vinyl-backed type. The monies for both fixes approximately $200,000 would come from building renewal funds if the board grants a go-ahead at its Aug. 2 meeting, Martin said.

The stadium wall, Martin explained, was held up by the bankruptcy of the contractor hired to build the structure.

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