Some Teachers Think Benefit Cuts Should Go For Administrators, Too

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Although Payson Unified School District employees will lose their district-paid dental insurance next year, the superintendent’s and assistant superintendent’s current contracts include full payment of insurance for them and their dependents.

The district expects to save $104,000 by making dental insurance voluntary. The measure is one of several to balance a projected $800,000 shortfall next year.

Both Superintendent Casey O’Brien’s and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Bobette Tomerlin’s contracts were approved last year, before the state began cutting education funding.

O’Brien’s contract expires in 2010, but it can be renegotiated after May 1 of this year. The board renews Tomerlin’s contract annually, and approval is expected at a May 11 meeting.

The two administrators are the only ones with benefits built into their contracts, according to district officials.

O’Brien said Monday that the issue of dental insurance for Tomerlin and he hasn’t yet been broached by the board, and added that he would consider relinquishing his dental insurance.

“The board makes that decision, but I would offer,” he said.

Dental insurance available to other employees for the next school year costs anywhere from $14 per month for a single person to $76 for a family depending upon the type of plan.

Other measures to balance the budget include the possibility of not filling 11 vacated positions and freezing all salaries, from maintenance man to superintendent.

Some employees within the district have said they resent losing their dental insurance while the two highest paid administrators could keep theirs.

O’Brien made $100,000 this year plus a $41 monthly cell phone allowance and $5,000 annual car allowance. Tomerlin made $80,000 this year, in addition to $200 per month for a car allowance and a $41 monthly cell phone allowance.

At least one other district employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said while she believed that cuts should be “fair across the board,” she was willing to pay what she considered a reasonable sum for dental insurance if it meant teachers keeping their jobs.

Each of the top administrators’ contracts, however, contains a clause that allows the board to reduce an administrator’s salary if a district loses funding. Tomerlin’s contract explicitly states that the salary is contingent upon steady funding.

O’Brien’s contract is more nuanced, and states that if the district reduces services because of events outside of its control, compensation “shall” be reduced.

This fiscal year, the Payson district lost nearly $300,000, which the district absorbed by depleting its reserves.

Next year’s projections remain unknown because the state has yet to finalize a budget. However, the district estimates it will lose $2 million from a combination of declining enrollment, state cuts and a voter-failed override.

It expects to receive $1.2 million in federal funds from the stimulus package and a program for rural schools.

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