Funds to be allocated to teachers, support staff
By Justin Doom, West Valley View
PHOENIX, May 26, 2004 — The Arizona Supreme Court, on May 3, ruled that utilities restrictions placed on a number of state school districts, including the Tolleson Union High School District, were unconstitutional and in violation of Proposition 301, which means the district will have an additional $600,000 in its 2003-04 budget.
TBThe $600,000 originally was budgeted to cover utility costs for La Joya Community High School. And depending on further court proceedings, as much as $1.2 million could be returned to the district’s 2004-05 budget if the excess utilities cap isn’t renewed.
TBThat means both La Joya and Copper Canyon High School, which opens this fall, would be covered and that the 2004-05 budget could be revised to include step increases plus a 2 percent pay bump for teachers, Superintendent Kino Flores said.
TB “In the last nine years, this has been, without a doubt, the most positive conclusion of a legislative session that we’ve had,” Flores said.
TBThese findings were announced and approved at a May 20 special district meeting; teachers and staff were notified via memo the previous week.
TBBecause the district does not have to cover La Joya’s utility costs, it now is required to give back at least $267,163 to certified and classified staffs. The district instead has decided to give back more than $625,000.
TB “This is almost double, almost three times what we were required by the contract to give to our employees,” said Kim Owens, the district governing board’s president. “There was money that could have been added to carryover, there was money that could have been added to capital, that we could have done other things with. But we have always said when and if monies are available, our employees would be our first consideration.”
TBCertified staff will receive a $900 stipend; classified staff will receive a pay increase of about 5 percent.
TBThe district also will redistribute some of the funds by allocating nearly $135,000 to cover increases in employee health-care costs.
TB “The actual increase in insurance to our employees this year was approximately 5 percent, depending on the package that each individual employee selected,” Flores said, adding that he was pleased to take care of not only the teachers, but also the support staff, which is not eligible to receive Proposition 301 money.
TB “I think they’re such an incredibly integral part,” Flores added. “Not only are they a dedicated, tireless group, but they’re, in most cases, from the neighborhood. They’re a real source of heart and soul.”