The Kirkwood School Board recently announced a 1.6 % pay raise for staff. While not inaccurate, the number hides more than it reveals. For an organization whose Finance Department claims to be " committed to professional, economical and conservative financial management,” it's ironic, at best. Highly taxed Kirkwood residents deserve better than irony.
When the School Board announced the 1.6% hike, it noted that the starting salary would remain at $43,000. This conforms to past practice. The starting salary is always announced. The top and median salaries never are.
While the overall cost of the salaries and benefits will rise by 1.6% the top-paid teachers (and Kirkwood has the second-highest salaries in the state) will do much better than a mere 1.6%. The problem is that most every teacher will receive much more than a 1.6% increase.
This is a ticking time bomb they have left future school boards and taxpayers. For the Board to lock in big increases in future years for just showing up without a real knowledge of how tax revenues will be coming in is a burden on taxpayers. People in the real world progress in salary according to performance and how the enterprise and the economy are doing. This will to make unnecessarily hard choices between real needs because salary increases are on autopilot.
As an example, the salary increase based only on just one year’s additional experience for high-end teachers at a particular will jump by 4.1%, a $3,200 dollar increase, well above 1.6%.
Kirkwood taxpayers will also pay an additional $464 to those teacher’s retirement at that level for a total of $11,750 beyond the salary to the Teacher Retirement fund. While taxpayers only get 6.75% from their employers for Social Security Kirkwood, taxpayers pay 14.5% into the Missouri Public School Retirement System.
The graph below shows the salary schedule and the commensurate percentage and dollar increases by additional year of employment. The green cells show those step-ups that are less than 1.6% and the red cells are over 1.6%. Only 21 step increases are less than 1.6% and 102 step increases are over 1.6%.
Recognizing the misleading winter 2018 announcement, we contacted the District CFO, Mike Romay, and asked them how many teachers are at each level. How many and how much?
Mr. Romay’s answer to our request was in the form of a spreadsheet that listed the salary level for each teacher, 542 cells/records, without a sum total by level. One of our members again requested the sum total of teachers by level instead of the raw data. The Interim Superintendent replied that the District would have to charge Tax Fairly for the work to calculate those numbers and would first have to consult with District lawyers to determine the costs.
Beg pardon? An enterprise with $65 million in annual tax revenue receipts that spends 87% percent of its Operational Budget on personnel doesn't know with any precision where most all of its money is going? Other Tax Fairly members with Excel spreadsheet experience simply used an Excel command and came up with the answer without the first requesting member’s knowledge.
So, either the approximately $150,000 a year CFO does not know how to use common Excel spreadsheet commands or was purposely trying to withhold requested information by providing only raw data. We think the latter.
This lack of transparency and obfuscation has been a pattern for many years. We are not the only ones who have experienced this type of behavior. The Missouri State Auditor, Democrat Nicolle Galloway, gave the Kirkwood School District a failing grade in Sunshine Law Compliance. The article is at this link that shows that the Kirkwood R-7 District failed in Open Record Compliance record laws.
We are hopeful that the newly formed Board will recognize the problem with the Salary Schedule and flatten the salary schedule so that we do not spend ourselves into another unnecessary tax increase. We also are asking to Board to make District employees properly respond to the taxpayer’s request for information.