Howard-Suamico board updated on teacher compensation
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico school board received its annual update on employee compensation and the recently rolled-out Compensation 2020 plan during its meeting Monday, Nov. 18.
“It’s an opportunity not just to talk about compliance with the policy, but to update you on progress and progress we’ve made in the area,” said Superintendent Damian LaCroix.
Howard-Suamico Assistant Superintendent of Operations Matt Spets said the district has two lofty goals it hopes to achieve by the 2020-21 school year:
• The best compensated employees, as measured against the district’s financial peers across Wisconsin.
• The most knowledgeable employees in regards to understanding personal finance and their own compensation.
“We want to be thoughtful and proactive all about retaining, attracting the best, and retaining what we have,” Spets said in regard to educators.
With transparency in mind, Spets said the district has spent $4 million of referendum funds to support hiring 30 additional teachers, bringing the total to 427 and enhancing the pay of existing teachers.
This created a new effective salary range of $40,000 on the low end to $81,151 on the high end.
“One thing we know is a stressed teacher, a stressed employee, isn’t going to be their best self for their kids, especially when it’s about money,” Spets said.
From 2017 to 2018, the district jumped up in average teacher pay more than $3,000 to $53,913, due to the successful referendum.
That increase is the largest when comparing the district to CESA 7 schools, the rest of the Wisconsin and the nation on average.
However, the average total amount a teacher earns in Howard-Suamico is still below those three other categories.
“We are making progress to that goal,” Spets said. “The State of Wisconsin in general has the next biggest jump from 2017 to 2018 in terms of average salary.”
However, with the board discussing another referendum for April 2021, which would need to pass to keep teacher employment and compensation numbers where they are, board member Vanessa Moran expressed concern over board policy EL-5.3, which states:
“The superintendent shall not create obligations over a longer term than adequate resources can be safely projected.”
Spets said the district needs to keep its base revenue to meet its compensation goals, and the only way to go beyond the state-imposed revenue cap is with another referendum.
The board was also updated on Strategy 2035, which is the referendum plan.
The potential referendum question would ask voters to approve the district going over the base revenue limit by $5.4 million.
With the most recent state budget, the district saw an additional $2 million this year due to an increased base revenue cap.
Of the $5.4 million referendum amount, Spets said $3.4 million would keep teacher numbers the same and continue to increase compensation, $1 million would go to facilities maintenance and $1 million would go a new program or pathway to enhance education, like early childhood/4K or an innovation center.
He said the exact plan for the additional project hasn’t been finalized yet.
The referendum could also be coupled with a tax rate increase to $9.49 per $1,000 of home value, up from the $9.19 the district has held stable for the past five years.
This falls in line with a recommendation from a community task force, which said the district would support a tax rate up to $9.49.
“That’s a benchmark,” LaCroix said. “It’s logical we would have this as a starting point. It honors the work of the task force.”
A proposed timeline regarding community engagement for the referendum is expected to be presented at the Dec. 9 school board meeting.