Gilbert Unified School District's governing board voted last week 3-2 to use additional funds in its budget to decrease class sizes for the upcoming school year.
The governing board made the decision as it approved the proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which began July 1.
District leaders had recommended the board use $1,050,000 to give nonteachers a permanent 1 percent salary raise. During the 2012-2013 school year, the board gave teachers and nonteachers additional money in the form of a 2 percent stipend.
In April, the board voted to place that 2 percent increase permanently on the salary schedule, along with an addition to 1 percent - resulting in a 3 percent raise for teachers. The funds being used to pay for the salary raise are specifically earmarked for teachers, either in the form of salaries or professional development.
During the marathon six-hour meeting last week, board president Staci Burk said that the district needed to cut down class sizes in its elementary schools. In an email to the Tribune following the meeting, Burk said the funds would mean kindergarten classes would be no larger than 23 students, first-grade classes would be no larger than 27 students and second- and third-grade classes would be no larger than 28 students.
Fourth- through sixth-grade classes would be limited to 32 students, she wrote.
"We received additional money from the state and there was a recommendation on the table from administration to allocate the additional $1,050,000 toward a 1 percent increase on the grid for support staff. I moved instead that the additional monies be allocated to reduce class sizes by 2 students per class at the K-6 (kindergarten- through sixth grade) levels and additionally reduce 7-12 (seventh- through 12th-grade) class sizes or increase aide support with the remaining funds," she wrote. "Our staff cares about our kids and they know our children are our future. We want a strong educated community and that begins with allocating the money where it will impact children's education the most."
Board members Daryl Colvin and Julie Smith voted with Burk on the class size reduction.
Board members Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys reiterated their desire to provide a salary increase for all employees.
With the proposed budget approval, the Gilbert district's projected primary tax rate would increase from the current 4.0884 to 4.3518. The district's projected secondary tax rate would decrease 3.1106 to 2.7478. The projected overall tax rate would decrease from 7.199 currently to 7.100.
The secondary tax rate is decreasing because voters turned down renewal of the maintenance and operations budget override in November 2012, Gilbert district director of finance Teddy Dumlao told the board.,
"For a median home, that would be a total bill change of $72 less specifically for Gilbert Public Schools," Dumlao said.
Previous proposals to increase student athletic fees were not included for the 2013-2014 budget, which began July 1.
The district will hold a public hearing this month to approve the final budget for the district.
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