Teachers’ raises still on hold | VailDaily.com

Teachers’ raises still on hold

Veronica Whitney

The money is tied up in a lawsuit filed in February by Michael Cacioppo of Edwards.”The school district is still holding the raises waiting for a resolution of the litigation,” said Karen Strackbein, the school district’s director of finance, who wouldn’t release any details on the mediation between Cacioppo and the school district ordered by Eagle County District Court.”I’m not dropping the lawsuit,” he said, declining to comment further.Cacioppo’s lawsuit, filed in February, challenges the wording of Question 3-D, which provided the school district with extra money as a cost-of-living adjustment to the Colorado School Finance Act.The lawsuit prompted the school district to return salary amounts back to their 2001 levels, rather than include the cost-of-living raises the voters approved.”Cost-of-living raises were included in the district’s January, Februaryand March payroll distributions, but since April the raises were notincluded,” said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district.In March, the district responded to Cacioppo’s lawsuit with amotion to dismiss. In the motion, the district said Cacioppo’s allegations were false and incorrect and that he had missed the filing deadline for his lawsuit.Cacioppo’s lawsuit alleges language contained in the ballot question violated the terms of Colorado’s TABOR amendment – a constitutional amendment that strictly regulates any tax increases and calls for specific language for ballot questions. Additionally, the lawsuit claims the district’s TABOR notice contained falsified funding and growth figures and that the ballot language was false and misleading.”The question is legal and we have a disagreement with Mr. Cacioppo regarding this issue,” said Dan Bernard, of Bernard, Lyons, Gaddis & Kahn, P.C., attorneys for the school district.In March, the school district responded with a motion to dismiss the case, asserting that the allegations contained in the Cacioppo lawsuit were false and incorrect.”Our position all along is that it (the ballot question) totally complies with TABOR. We have extensive legal review,” Boyd said.District officials also said Cacioppo had missed a critical deadline because the law dictates challenges to ballot language must come within five days from the date it is legally certified.In May, Judge Edwin Ruland ruled on the district’s motions. That ruling dismissed the claims about falsified dollar amounts and growth percentages. The court also ruled the claim concerning TABOR violations regarding the ballot language was untimely because the five-day rule is law – by state statute, ballot items must be challenged within five days of their certification.However, because Cacioppo challenged the constitutionality of the five-day law, Ruland allowed Cacioppo to forward the constitutional question to the Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar for consideration.Upon his review, Salazar opted to enter the case in favor of the district. He filed his response, which included 84 individual citations in support of the school district’s position putting the issue back in Eagle County, where the district court will act on the school district’s original motion to dismiss.”Based on the previous ruling, the district is optimistic that the case will be decided in its favor,” Boyd said.In spite of the lawsuit, the school district approved in July an increase of 20 percent for its general budget for 2002-03. The $46 million general budget includes $3.1 million provided by last November’s ballot initiation.However, planning for the extra money doesn’t mean actually spending them, Strackbein said. The district will not reinstate the 3-D pay raises until it has a court ruling. The lawsuit might not be resolved until Jan.13, when it’s scheduled to come back to district court for final disposition.The school board, however, is considering a plan to pay employees retroactively, Boyd said.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

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