Education, Steamboat Springs

Negotiator's mom changes tune, votes for raises despite deficit spending

One Steamboat Springs School District Re-2 Board of Education member whose campaign for the board in November was financed almost entirely by the teacher’s union voted on June 2 to give her local teacher’s association raises, despite the board operating in a deficit.

Steamboat Springs School District member Margaret Huron - Credit: Sherrie Peif
Steamboat Springs School District member Margaret Huron – Credit: Sherrie Peif

Margaret Huron, the mother of one of the Collective Bargaining Team’s (CBT) negotiators representing the Steamboat Springs Education Association, was the deciding vote after much controversy surrounding her recusing herself from the same vote just  a week earlier.

The raises are on average a 2.6 percent increase. According to the Steamboat Today, some teachers have reached their maximum on the salary schedule and won’t receive a raise.

The vote came despite the fact that the district’s 2016-17 budget, which will be voted on June 6, is about $230,000 in the hole, something members Roger Good and Joey Andrew pointed to as their main reason for voting no on the pay package.

The package passed 3-2.

“As I’ve gone on record multiple times, I have no problem giving staff (raises),” Andrew said. “I do, however, struggle with not having a plan to get out of deficit spending. … I would like to see a plan.”

Huron recused herself from the same issue last week because of her daughter’s involvement in the process, which some in the audience that night perceived as a conflict of interest. Following her recusal, the package failed on a 2-2 vote. However, the board asked for legal clarification and the board’s attorney, Mike Holleran, said it was not illegal for Huron to vote on it.

Members of the audience June 2 then raised the question of the ethicality of an elected school board president voting on an agreement with a teachers association whose negotiating team includes her own daughter.

But Huron did not answer questions surrounding those ethical concerns. She also did not recuse herself from the second vote on the package, ultimately leading to its final passage.

Colorado Education Association
File photo: Todd Shepherd

This wasn’t the first time Huron’s intent or ethics have been questioned by her constituency. Huron and and fellow board member Michelle Dover were shown during the election season to have changed campaign contributions from the president of the Colorado Education Association, Kerrie Dallman. The two women amended their filings within two minutes of each other the day after Dallman’s donation became public to claim they were from the CEA’s Small Donor Committee instead.

Complete Colorado also reported on the more than $40,000 the same two women received in donations for their campaign from union sources. That amount surpassed previous Steamboat school board campaign contribution highs of $2,400 combined between two candidates.

The board will now take up the rest of the budget on June 6 with hopes of shaving $230,000 from spending in an effort to ward off an estimated $300,000 increase in public employee retirement and health insurance costs already predicted for the 2017-18 school year.

Both Andrew and Good said they would support a mill levy override (MLO) to help increase teachers’ salaries, but could not support such an increase while the district operated in the red.

“I believe we need to look at the budget in totality, and vote on 100 percent of the budget, recognizing that the CBT is 83.7 percent of it,” Good said. “I am personally in favor of (an MLO) But before I could ask voters for a mill levy override, I would like to see the district demonstrate they are working within its fiscal realities.”

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