Gilbert Public Schools employees will get a minimum 5% pay increase for the coming school year after the governing board approved the increases at its March 31 meeting.

Teachers are getting a previously approved 5% increase funded primarily through additional money coming to the district from Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20 by ’20 plan to increase salaries by 20% from the 2016-17 state average over three years. Fiscal year 2020-21 is the final year of that commitment.

Support staff will get bumps from new salary grade minimums meant to address the district’s competitiveness in attracting workers. The district is also making “equity adjustments” to the base to address salary compression issues. The minimum increase for staff will be 5%.

Administration and other educational professionals also will be getting new minimum salaries and an increase of at least 5%.

Budget projection

Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz showed the board an initial budget projection, based on the Legislature’s baseline budget passed as House Bill 2902, with an available budget balance of $470,000.

Betz, however, outlined a number of risks in the projection, including the effect the coronavirus may have on projected revenue.

The projection showed anticipated budget capacity to increase to $19.36 million, with $11.74 million coming from November’s successful 15% maintenance and operations budget override and the unanticipated increase in the number of students in the district this year.

Another $4.97 million is expected with a budget capacity increase from the state, figuring an inflation adjustment of 1.74% and despite an estimated loss of 400 students in the district.

Betz said nondiscretionary budget spending increases, for items such as higher medical insurance premiums or additional Arizona State Retirement System contributions, are estimated to amount to $1.33 million.

Betz noted that the district made three commitments when it went to voters for a maintenance and operations budget override: decreasing class sizes, adding social-emotional supports and increasing salaries. The cost of those commitments is projected to be $18.01 million, a figure more than $6 million above what is expected to be brought in by the override.

Board member Lori Wood asked Betz about what would happen to the small surplus. Betz said it likely would most go to pay increases.

Board Member Jill Humphreys said that with the governor’s 20 by ’20 program coming to an end, the district may have more trouble navigating salary increases.

“I appreciate the conservative nature of this budget because if we do end up needing to make cuts, it puts us in a better position to do so from the start,” board member Reed Carr said.

Medical benefits

The board also unanimously approved medical insurance rates for the coming year.

Employees will pay an additional 3 percent on the premiums coming from their paychecks, and the district also will contribute an extra 3 percent.

Elementary Education Executive Director Shawn McIntosh said the district hopes the 3 percent increase will lessen the impact of what could be a larger increase in 2021-22 if the district held rates steady.

The increase is the smallest in several years, Superintendent Shane McCord said.

Budget audit

The district’s final audit report showed a “clean” or unmodified report. Auditors found one significant deficiency in cash reconciliation. That finding has been ongoing over a few years, but Betz said district officials anticipate that it will be off next year’s audit.

Findings from the previous audit on cash and revenue, payroll, and student attendance had been cleaned up by this audit.

The district now has its financial records reconciled monthly, its general ledger reviewed monthly, offers regular training to attendance staff, and all financials are reviewed and updated constantly, Betz said.

Classroom spending

In conjunction with the audit, Betz presented information from the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report showing instructional spending at 59%. The state auditor general’s report shows the district’s instructional spending at 61% of total spending

When instructional spending is combined with student support and instructional support to be classified as classroom spending, GPS is at 74.1% of total spending, according to the auditor general. That is second highest in the state behind Chandler USD, Betz said.