The Higley USD governing board ratified at its March 25 meeting some past years' benefits and stipends that had not received specific board approval.

The action avoids a finding by the state’s auditor general office that payments were made without specific board approval. These are benefits and “longevity pay” that have already been paid for several years following initial board approval.

The benefits had been in contract addendums, and while the contracts had been approved, the addendums had not received separate approval.

The benefits addendums for administrative and director positions date back to 2013, but because they were paid during that time, there is no financial impact on the district.

In connection with another unnamed district’s audit, the auditor general’s office is examining closely the board approval of payment of funds, particularly additions to employment contracts, according to HUSD documents. The auditor general's office has indicated it will accept ratification as satisfactory evidence that the board has approved the payments.

The addendums gave administrators and certain directors added benefits such as pay for additional duties, life insurance policies, flex time and additional paid vacation.

“It’s correcting errors of the past, but I really have to swallow hard to pass that and say that because we only just found out about it, and so we’re trying to fix it,” board member Scott Glover said.

Superintendent Mike Thomason said what was in the addendums will become a standard part of base contracts issued next year. The board also approved the addendums for the contracts just issued for fiscal year 2020-21.

Board Vice President Kristina Reese said moving the addendums into the base contract was important for transparency.

“When I see language like that in an addendum, I’m going to say, ‘Show me. What is the additional work? What are you doing? How is it additional?’” Reese said. “Because, quite honestly, with administrators, there is that little last line in their job descriptions that says ‘and all other duties as assigned.’ That kind of contradicts things.”

Longevity pay, a scaled stipend issued to employees for five, 10, 15 or 20 year of service, also will be moved into base contracts, Thomason said. The board ratified payments dating back to 2016 because it was unclear if payments from then had been approved.

Without board ratification on the addendums and longevity pay, employees may have been forced to pay back the amounts given to them, according to the board resolutions.

Thomason said he aims to have the contracts corrected by December, in time for the next issuance of contracts.

Prop 301 pay

The board approved an additional $200 in pay to teachers who meet requirements under Proposition 301, an education sales tax that dates to voter approval in 2000 and was extended by the Arizona Legislature in 2018. Half of the additional monies will be used for pay for performance and the other will go into the classroom site fund.

Employee benefits

Medical and dental premiums for Higley USD employees will remain the same for the coming school year. United Health Care and Total Dental remain the providers.

Vision insurance through Eyemed is going up 11 percent, but Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens said that may account for only 20 cents monthly for an individual employee.