Our Opinion: The teachers deserve it

Monday, April 17, 2006

Some may think that the timing is wrong for a 3.5 percent increase in the wage and benefit package of certified staff (teachers and counselors) in the Cherokee School District.

Some may think that it is a bad time to reduce the property tax for the school district by about 88 cents next year.

After all, there are staff positions being eliminated, including the loss of a vocational agriculture teacher and an elementary technology position.

We do not agree with either those who criticize the increase in the wage and benefit package or those who criticize the reduction in property tax.

To address the second of these first, the property tax reduction resulted in applying revenue from the School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) sales tax to the bond debt and reducing the property tax for debt service.

The district is restricted by state law in what it can do with SILO revenue and is further restricted by what the local voters have been told would be done with this revenue. SILO revenue simply cannot be used for general operating funds. The school board cannot increase tax for general operations beyond what the state sets by law as a formula-based combination of local property tax and state aid. The state formula is set to achieve a specific amount per pupil for the general fund operations.

Regarding the increase in the wage and benefit package, the school district can't keep wages and benefits stagnant year after year in order to maintain staff when student numbers decrease year after year. Programs ad positions have to be eliminated when enrollment declines.

We have stated before that public employees should not be totally sheltered from the ravages of inflation when the private sector has been losing ground to inflation in past years.

Local school teachers have not been protected from the ravages of inflation. The increase in health insurance cost has eaten up about everything local teachers have gotten in terms of percentage increase in the wage and benefit package for a number of years now.

This year, the health insurance cost has not increased for the school district, an anomaly that has not been duplicated for other entities in the country this year and cannot be expected in future years. So the 3.5 percent increase will result in some actual money this year for school staff.

It's time for it. They have it with our gratitude.