R-3 budgets for pay raises despite slight deficit in 2014-15

The Platte County R-3 Board of Education unanimously approved pay increases for district employees, confident in the preliminary budget for the upcoming school year.The biggest bumps go to support staff, including janitors and secretaries who have routinely been found to lag behind the same workers at 15 comparison schools. They will see an average of a 5.3 percent increase for the upcoming year. Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik expressed satisfaction in negotiations with Team Platte County — a group of district teachers tasked with helping determine pay scale advancements.

“I think when you have a team that comes together and our goals are basically the same — whether you’re an administrator, teacher or support staff member — it’s really not a complicated process,” Reik said. “It’s very much a data driven process where we are able to collaborate and come to consensus relatively easy.

“We really want to compensate people fairly, and I think our teachers want that as well. They want to be compensated fairly but also be able to go to the public and justify where they are.”

Certified teachers, administrators and technical professionals will all receive an average of a 3 percent increase. Reik said these advancements continued to help make up for a period of pay freezes in recent years and constituted what the district views as a necessary boost to remain competitive with the comparison schools, all located in the Kansas City area.

“I think they understand the position that we’re in,” Platte County assistant superintendent Rob Gardner said. “The priority list that we developed, every one of the priorities was met. We always want to be competitive as we can be, but we have a budget and we all recognize that, too.”

The pay increases came at the same time as Reik announced the current budget would likely come in at a deficit. While revenues stayed close to projections for 2014-15, expenditures were up.

Reik noted that the past two years were surplus budgets, and the district remains at a surplus overall for the past three years combined. He also said a strategy would be developed for the next two years to recoup the deficit encountered here.

In addition, the district ended up paying higher-than-expected costs put toward the current construction project that includes a new elementary school in Platte City and renovations to Paxton School and Pathfinder Elementary. Some of those items are set to be paid back through the recently approved property tax increase.

“Nothing to cause alarm,” Reik said, “but I wanted to make you aware of it.” The construction project remains in line with the aggressive timetable despite recent weather headaches.

Record rainfall in May and June caused some concern, but Reik complimented the contractors performing work on the site of the new elementary school, located off of Fourth Street. He specifically mentioned the work of Blue Nile on the excavation work.

“We’re dealing with extraordinary circumstances, and they’re still making progress,” Reik said. “I’m happy with where we are right now. Should be able to get the concrete guys in there soon and moving on, and if we get that building closed up before bad weather comes in, we’ll be home free.”

In a shorter-than-usual meeting, the board approved one major expenditure.

The district will spend more than $43,000 with Commenco Inc. to purchase 52 digital radios for buses and buildings and 19 portable units used by administrators and custodians. This cost will be in addition to the monthly fee paid to the Kansas City, Mo. business.

While the new radios drastically improve reception and range of service, Gardner noted the purchase became a necessity with Commenco planning to abandon its analog system. Platte County currently uses that system.