Gilbert Public Schools employees to get 2% raises, 3% stipends

Gilbert Public Schools
Most Gilbert Public Schools employees will receive a 2% raise and a 3% stipend next year. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Most Gilbert Public Schools employees will receive a 2% raise and a 3% stipend next year. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board approved giving most of its employees a 3% stipend next school year, in addition to 2% raises, in an effort to stay competitive on salaries.

The action came at its April 13 brief board business meeting following a work-study session on the proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget, which shows an $8.24 million reduction in maintenance and operations, and a little over two weeks after the district laid off 152 teachers.

Superintendent Shane McCord said the action was necessary to stay competitive with increases in neighboring districts. Higley USD, which also serves the Gilbert area, is giving its employees a 5% raise next year, but its maintenance and operations budget is growing next year.

Board members expressed support of keeping salaries growing, noting it took years to catch back up after the Great Recession caused layoffs and salary freezes.

“Once we slide back, it’s really hard to recover,” Board Member Jill Humpherys said.

Board Member Reed Carr said he knows how it looks to some when the board approves such salary increases in the wake of a reduction in force, or RIF, and he had Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz explain how this RIF was different than the one after the Great Recession.

Betz said the previous RIF was brought on by a sharp drop in state funding per student at the time when the district was reaching peak enrollment. This one, however, came because of a large loss of enrollment due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent need to “right-size” the district.

While the raises for next year were included in the FY 2021-22 projections, the stipends will be paid for from the third round of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funding, approved by Congress in March.

Betz said the district does not know what its allocation from ESSER III will be, but the district anticipates it will be at least as much as the second round, from which GPS received $9.7 million, and could be as much as $20 million.

Betz said the district did not have the money to assure sustaining a 5% raise, but that the use of one-time monies for a one-year stipend would allow the district to stay competitive this year.

Congress required that 20% of the money be used to address learning loss from the pandemic, but the remainder will be enough to pay for the $6.7 million required to give the employees a 3% stipend. The stipend will be paid half in December 2021 and half in June 2022, Betz said.

The board and district officials also noted that ESSER II funds had saved the district from drastic measures affecting employees, possibly including midyear RIFs, salary reductions or furloughs.

“If some of this money hadn’t come through ... we would have had to make some very difficult decisions regarding our employees,” Superintendent Shane McCord said. “Thankfully we didn’t have to do that smack dab in the middle of a pandemic.”

The board also approved an inflationary increase, expected to be 1.23%, to the starting salaries for new hires, except minimum-wage employees, who will receive an inflationary increase to their hourly rate in January 2022.

Proposed FY 2021-22 budget

With more money coming available from the state’s classroom site fund—money that comes from a sales tax originally approved through Proposition 301 in November 2000—Betz presented a new proposed FY 2021-22 budget.

The revision brings next year’s proposed maintenance and operations, or M&O, budget to $252.26 million, which Betz said is $8.24 million less than what the next revision of this year’s M&O will show at $260.5 million. That current revision should go before the board for approval in May while next year’s budget will be adopted in June.

The first projection in March showed next year’s M&O budget at $250.3 million at a time when the board had just approved a revision the current M&O budget of $260.52 million, meaning a $10.22 million reduction.

The unrestricted capital budget is expected to grow $380,000 from $16.74 million to $17.12 million, Betz said.

Other business

  • The governing board unanimously approved a buyback of accrued medical days for those staff members affected by the RIF but who otherwise would be ineligible to receive such a buyback. The requirements under the memorandum of understanding between the district and the Gilbert Education Association include five years of service in the district, at least 25 unused medical days accrued and that the employee complete the current contractual year in GPS.

  • The board also unanimously approved suspending employees’ formal performance evaluations for the year, though Talent Acquisition Assistant Superintendent Shawn McIntosh said most principals likely would still want to sit down with employees to offer feedback and coaching.

By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


Big O Tires
2 businesses now open in Gilbert

Here are two businesses that have opened in Gilbert recently.

Gilbert home values rising fast in 85298; 5 businesses coming to Chandler and more top area news

Read the top news from the past week from the Gilbert and Chandler areas.

Doug Ducey
Ducey unveils program to encourage individuals to return to work

Gov. Doug Ducey announced May 13 a three-part “Arizona Back to Work” program to incentivize residents to get off unemployment benefits and fill one of the state’s 160,000 to 180,000 open jobs.

CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

Higley USD governing board
Higley USD governing board approves revised budgets worth $128.1 million

Higley USD’s governing board adopted revised budgets for fiscal year 2020-21 that are more than $7.67 million more than what was adopted in June 2020.

Donald Garcia, Unstoppable Martial Arts
4 business changes to know in Gilbert

Here are four businesses that have made recent changes in Gilbert.

Cream of the Crop ice cream
Cream of the Crop opens in Agritopia's Barnone in Gilbert

Cream of the Crop serves homemade ice cream and toppings.

Doug Ducey
Gov. Ducey signs bill to trim early voter roll

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on May 11 signed into law Senate Bill 1485, which will purge the permanent early voter rolls of anyone who has not voted by mail in the previous two election cycles.

Residents will have until May 2023 to obtain a Real ID. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
US Department of Homeland Security extends Real ID deadline until 2023

Drivers will have until May 2023 to get the Real ID, which will be required for adults boarding a U.S. commercial flight.

COVID-19 vaccine
Arizona children ages 12-15 can be vaccinated starting May 13

Arizona Department of Health Services officials said they are ready to administer vaccines to the state’s 400,000 children in that age group at state-run vaccination sites in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff.

Susan Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. (Courtesy American Medical Association)
'I am convinced we will beat COVID': American Medical Association President Susan Bailey discusses vaccine successes, myths, challenges

Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. Much of the organization's focus during that time has been on vaccine transparency and distribution.

Gilbert mural
Gilbert residents asked to participate in National Community Survey

The feedback from the survey provides the town with insight on how it is serving residents and helps drive decision-making in the community, according to Gilbert officials.