School board authorizes 3-D spending
The Eagle County School Board Friday convened a special meeting with one agenda item: Approving a method to provide back pay and new pay rates to employees.The pay adjustments come on the heels of a Colorado Supreme Court decision upholding the district’s 2001 ballot initiative 3-D, which provided cost of living pay raises to all district employees. That measure passed with just less than 60 percent of the vote.The initiative was challenged by Avon resident Michael Cacioppo, who alleged the ballot measure’s language violated the “TABOR” amendment to the state constitution. That amendment limits the taxing and spending abilities of local and state governments.Cacioppo lost his suit in District Court in Eagle. The case then went to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Before a ruling was issued, the school district requested the case be moved directly to the state’s high court. The state Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the district’s legal argument that Cacioppo missed two state-imposed deadlines for challenging ballot measures when he filed suit in February of 2002.While the case was in litigation, the school board voted to stop paying the cost-of-living raises, and promised to pay employees back pay if the district prevailed in the case.While Cacioppo is vowing to continue the case, the district is taking the high court’s decision as the final word in the matter. Friday, the board convened with its attorneys and Superintendent John Brendza in a conference call and agreed to free up the back pay and start paying employees at the new rate.”We’ll start writing checks as soon as we can,” said Assistant Superintendent Karen Strakbein.One impediment will be working around existing paydays. Another is the computer-crunching that needs to be done to get the back paychecks properly adjusted to take the right amount of retirement deductions.”We’re relatively close, though,” Strakbein said. “We’ve been planning for this since the suit was filed.”Of course, the district was also planning for a loss. “We prepared for best-case and worst-case scenarios,” Board Member Louise Funk said.While all board members serve as volunteers, “This is the best payday I’ve ever had on this board,” said Funk of the vote to free up the 3-D money. “It’s a great day.”Who gets paid• Back pay, then higher base pay will go to employees who were working at the district before March 31, 2002 and continue to work for the district.• Former employees who were working at the district before March 31, 2002.• Employees still with the district who started work after March 31, 2002, will receive back pay retroactive to the time they were hired.• Retirees will receive back pay and have their contributions to the state’s Public Employee Retirement Agency adjusted to reflect those pay rates.Who doesn’t get paid• Substitute employees.• Employees who started work after March 31, 2002 and are no longer working for the district.• Long term substitutes.
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