The Payson school board has sharply lowered the cap on payments to administrators for unused vacation days, as a roomful of disgruntled teachers looked on.
The board reduced the maximum payout for unused vacation days from 50 to five providing they’ve worked for at least five years. Current administrators will keep payouts for any days they’ve already accumulated.
“Whatever you have on the books,” we’re not taking that away, board chairwoman Barbara Underwood said. “But you need to be here five years to be eligible.”
“We want our administrators to use their (vacation) time,” said board member Rory Huff. “We don’t want them to burn out.”
Board member Barbara Shepherd said, “I just want the administration to know that I would prefer those numbers be higher.”
Board member Kim Pound said, “We want to eliminate this high payout when people leave. I think that’s pretty fair.”
Last year, 17 district employees retired or got laid off, triggering payouts totaling $132,000. That included $50,000 for the unused vacation time accumulated by laid-off administrators.
The discussion this week took place in a board chamber crowded with teachers who had attended to plead with the board to not repeal a policy that offered teachers and administrators cash payments for unused sick days. The board eventually voted unanimously to repeal the open-ended payouts and to cap payouts at 80 days of unused sick days. The new policy will provide payouts starting at $40 a day for unused sick time after eight years rising to $80 a day after 20 years, with a maximum of 80 days. The teachers had proposed a 120-days cap.
The district’s administrators are also covered by the new policy on sick leave, with pay at the substitute teacher rate. However, unlike teachers, the administrators won’t get payment at $40 a day each year for unused sick days above the 80-day cap.
The district must hire a substitute whenever a teacher is sick, but does not have to pay extra when administrators use their sick days.
The board took up the issue of administrative vacation time before the sick leave cap discussion in an effort to respond to complaints at early meetings that the teachers were suffering the bulk of the cutbacks.
Currently, the district’s administrators get about six weeks of vacation annually. If they leave after five years, they get paid at their full salary rate for up to 50 days of unused vacation time. Many of the administrators make $80,000 to $120,000 annually. So the previous cap enabled many to collect about 20 percent of their annual salary in unused vacation time plus an unlimited number of unused sick days.
The 2,400-student district has eight administrators — six of which have been here for five years or more. The district also has about 142 teachers and about 165 other employees.
The new vacation and sick leave policies will not cap payouts for unused vacation or sick time already earned. Therefore, the new policy will have no impact on the district’s current financial crisis. The district this year may have to lay off 22 employees to close a $930,000 projected budget. That number could jump by 10 to 15 teachers if the House and the governor accept the state Senate’s budget plan, which would cost the Payson school district another $520,000.
The new vacation cap would enable future administrators to accumulate just five days of unused vacation time, plus 80 days of sick leave. Unlike teachers, the administrators won’t get paid $40 a day each year for unused sick days above the cap.
Technically, teachers don’t get any vacation time or holiday pay because their nine-month contract calls for a certain number of teaching days annually. Starting pay for teachers stands at about $32,000, with teacher salaries averaging about $46,000 annually — slightly below the state average and about 10 percent to 20 percent below the national average.
The non-teaching, classified staff also get paid for unused sick days annually, starting at 26 percent of their hourly rate after seven years and rising to 38 percent of their hourly rate after 20 years.