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Madison School Board

The Madison School Board weighed in Monday on a member's proposal to bump up the base wage increase for school employees next school year.

A series of budget amendments from a new School Board member would further hike a proposed wage increase for teachers and other employees of the Madison schools.

During an Operations Work Group meeting Monday, Madison School Board members weighed in on Cris Carusi’s plan to increase the base wage for district employees by the highest amount allowable under state law — 2.44% — in the 2019-20 school year.

District staff and some board members, though, expressed skepticism about whether cuts to administration and new “strategic equity investments” would be enough to help cover the salary increase. Carusi’s plan also assumes the state will come through with additional education funding.

“There isn’t fat left in these lines,” Kelly Ruppel, the district’s chief financial officer, said of the administration’s proposed budget.

That $462.2 million spending blueprint, released in April, includes only a 0.5% base wage increase for employees. When factoring in a salary schedule that accounts for experience and education, the district estimates an average salary increase of 2.5%.

Carusi, elected to the board in April with the teachers union’s backing, brought forward three amendments for discussion Monday that would provide the approximately $4.6 million needed to reach a 2.44% base wage increase.

Under Act 10, the 2011 law that curbed the power of public-sector unions, increases to base wages cannot exceed a cost-of-living figure determined by the state, or 2.44% this year.

The Madison teachers union, Madison Teachers Inc., is demanding the full cost-of-living increase. According to the union, more than 1,000 district employees, or about one-quarter of all staff, are slated to only receive a base wage increase in 2019-20. Bargaining between the two sides is ongoing.

“We will continue to demand a 2.44% cost-of-living base-wage increase for all employees, regardless of the state budget decisions,” MTI said in its weekly newsletter Monday.

Carusi’s plan would cut $1.6 million from administration and “strategic equity investments,” including reducing conference travel expenses by $250,000 and leaving seven of nine vacant positions in administration unfilled for $600,000 in reductions.

The package includes a per-pupil revenue limit increase and general fund savings associated with new special education money that together could provide enough revenue to cover the full 2.44% increase.

“It’s basically a statement of if we get this money, our top priority is our staff,” Carusi said.

Amendments to the district’s budget will be voted on during the board’s June 24 meeting, when it is scheduled to approve the preliminary budget for next school year.

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