Dayton superintendent seeks higher pay for staff, says levy likely soon

Dayton’s school board will decide next week whether to approve a new, higher salary schedule for administrators, plus a 3 percent raise for nonunion staff, retroactive to July.

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli told the school board Tuesday that the salary changes are important if Dayton Public Schools wants to recruit quality employees from outside the district. She also acknowledged after the meeting that a tax levy is likely “in the near future.”

“The raises are within reason and within our financial structure, and our treasurer has been working with us on those,” Lolli said in an interview. “We have not had a new levy since 2008, I believe. At some point in time, in order to sustain the district, we will have to go for a levy.”

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Treasurer Hiwot Abraha said Tuesday that the proposed pay raises will not put the district in financial jeopardy. At the same meeting, Abraha told the school board that DPS has saved millions since it switched to a self-insurance system, and hopes to transfer $13 million from that program to the general fund.

“We are in good financial condition really,” Abraha said. “Our fund balances are good.”

Lolli said she proposed the retroactive raise now because DPS waited until all of the unions working under expired contracts this year ratified new deals with their own raises, before proposing the raise for nonunion staff.

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On the new salary schedule, Lolli said the district paid a consultant to perform a salary study, comparing DPS’ salaries to other Ohio urban school districts, as well as some Dayton-area districts.

School board Vice President John McManus asked for details, and Lolli said DPS came out mixed, but with some salaries significantly lower than districts like Akron and Toledo. She said DPS is trying to bring salaries at least to the midpoint, “to give us some recruiting power.”

“If we want to truly change the face of education in Dayton Public Schools, we have to be able to hire the best teachers, the best administrators, the best employees,” Lolli said. “We cannot do that if we don’t have the ability to pay them the salaries that they’re receiving elsewhere.”

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This news organization has requested a copy of the consultant’s salary study. But it is clear DPS pays much less than some local suburban districts.

The new salary schedule, if approved, would raise starting salaries, but still would have Dayton’s elementary school principals maxing out at $98,872. Last month, Kettering City Schools approved new contracts for many principals, with four elementary principals making between $111,000 and $119,000.

School board member Robert Walker called the higher salary schedule “way overdue.” When Lolli said initial placement of administrators on the salary schedule might not strictly follow the chart, board member Karen Wick-Gagnet cautioned district leadership not to be arbitrary. She suggested some type of limit when the chart is implemented, such as, initial raises not to exceed a certain percentage.

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Lolli said she can’t picture DPS putting a levy on the ballot in November, but said it won’t be long. DPS has gone more than a decade without a new levy, while voters in some local districts approve new levies every 3 to 5 years.

“I can’t see that we would have a levy this year, but I would guess that we would be planning for one in the near future, just because of the expense of everything today and trying to maintain where we are,” she said.

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