Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Will DeMarco
Gazette Reporter 

Pullman teachers get raise in face of looming budget funding deficit

 

August 23, 2018 | View PDF



Pullman teachers struck a tentative deal last week to raise their pay 17 percent over the next two years.

If approved, Pullman instructors will see a 15 percent pay increase in the upcoming school year, along with a two percent increase for the 2019-2020 year. The agreement states a first-year teacher in the district could make a maximum salary of approximately $47,000, while teachers on the highest end of the pay grade would max out just under $88,000 per year.

Pullman teachers must still act to ratify the agreement before it is finalized, which Supt. Robert Maxwell said should be next week.

Collective bargaining for the salary increase began in May, with the teacher's union shooting for a 15.5 percent raise against the school board's offer of 13 percent. Tension around the issue increased earlier this month when the teacher's union declared an impasse during pay negotiations and when a group of teachers and advocates rallied in front of Pullman High School Aug. 8.

Pullman expects a multi-million dollar budget shortfall over the next few years. As part of a new state rule, the district conducted a four-year budget projection earlier this summer, which estimated a loss of over $300,00 for the upcoming year. The budget gap is projected to widen to $2.6 million by the 2021-2022 academic year. The district will rely on reserves to fund the deficit.

Fiscal Director Diane Hodge said the district's money troubles can be attributed to legislation to comply with the McCleary decision by Washington's supreme court six years ago.

The state legislature only came into compliance with the McCleary decision this year, which effectively reduced the voter-approved maintenance and operations levy for PPS by almost half.

Maxwell said he's proud of the progress made on behalf of Pullman teachers after months of negotiating.

To reconcile a personnel spending increase and the concurrent budget shortfall, Maxwell said the district will analyze district and building spending to determine “what is and isn't in line with teacher's and student's needs.”

Maxwell also stressed the importance for the district to be as transparent as possible and keep parents and the public updated with the school district's changes over the next few years.

“We need to be having that conversation now, so we can look down the road to year three or four and not be surprised,” Maxwell explained.

Pullman School District has posted a number of statements and answered common questions on its Facebook page in recent weeks to keep the public informed about the pay raise and budget deficit news. The district has also hired a neutral third party from the state who will listen to and report confidential concerns from residents. They will accept phone calls through Sept. 15.

The first day of school for Pullman is Wednesday, Aug. 29.

 
 

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