The Higley USD governing board gave unanimous, but tentative, approval March 10 of a $104.48 million maintenance and operations budget for fiscal year 2021-22.

The budget represents an $8.65 million increase from what the district anticipates it will show in a revised budget for this fiscal year, which will be presented in May.

That is enough to absorb a 5% increase to teachers, administrators and classified staff salaries for next year. The board also unanimously approved the issuance of contracts for next year reflecting that increase.

“I think we’re in wonderful shape,” interim Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gad said. “We’re giving a salary increase that is more than anybody I know of. We’re rewarding staff a lot through trying to use the money in the best way we know how.”

District Finance Director Tyler Moore said the salary boost will help retain staff and make the district more competitive in attracting employees and show the district it values them.

Board Member Michelle Anderson said she appreciated the increase for staff members but stressed salary increases alone are not enough.

“I want to make it clear there still needs to be value given in other ways,” she said. “There still needs to be acknowledgement of their value in other ways. This raise still won’t keep some teachers here, unfortunately.”

The budget also has no additional employee benefit costs to employees while maintaining the current benefits.

The budget projects no enrollment growth in the coming year and provides a budget contingency of about 3.5% despite the salary increases, which will cost the district $3.53 million, and anticipated fixed cost increases of $1.5 million.

Other items

  • The district did a second review of the projected 2021-22 capital outlay budget, which will go before the board for tentative approval April 7. That showed a $22.55 million budget that includes $4.4 million on paying building leases, $1.7 million to bring the technology device to student ratio to 1:1, $2.97 million for curriculum and textbook adoption, and $1.75 million for a major maintenance plan.

  • Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens presented new salary and supplemental pay schedules that showed 2.5% increases to the base salaries and supplemental payments in the district. Martens said the increases were to address equity and salary compression issues from minimum wage increases in the state.

  • Gad reviewed the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding the district has received this year, including a third round of grants that Gad said passed Congress on March 10. He said ESSER III would be worth $6.7 million to the district, and staff presented a plan to use part of the funding for summer school. The board would have to decide how else to expend the money, Gad said.

  • Elementary Education Executive Director Sherry Richards presented the summer school plan. It covered efforts to give students recovery if they have fallen behind, physical education classes, no-credit boost courses for students needing additional help as they move up in math, intervention and enrichment opportunities for students at Title I elementary schools, and extended summer school opportunities for students at non-Title I schools that may have experienced “learning loss” in the past year. Title I schools have large concentrations of low-income students. Richards said the district does not wish to turn any student away from such opportunities but staffing will be a key to how much can be offered.