Excess Cash Handed out to D20 Employees

A reader recently tipped us off about big bonuses that were given to Academy School District 20 staff in January. Through a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request, we received a copy of the email sent to district staff on January 20th announcing the bonuses.

Academy District 20,

The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges in education. While we hoped these challenges would be short-term, we continue to navigate extraordinary circumstances.

Yet even during the most trying times, your efforts have been heroic! You have come together to ensure we keep moving forward. Your persistence, unending dedication to students and our community, and your ability to face each hurdle with grace, are legendary. Thank you for your commitment to our district and to the noble profession of education.

In recognition of your extraordinary efforts, the Board of Education has endorsed a one-time bonus for staff. This bonus is one component of the midyear budget adjustment approved during tonight’s Board Meeting. 

Early next week, school and district administrators will hand deliver one-time bonus checks to staff. The bonus is for regular staff and long-term subs and PERA retirees who have continuous service from Nov. 1, 2021 (or before), through Jan. 21, 2022.

For all that you have done, and continue to do, we hope you will accept this special token of thanks!

One-time Bonus Amounts

      • Full-time or greater (1.0 FTE or more) = $1,700
      • Half-time, but less than full-time (FTE 0.5 – 0.99) = $1,275
      • Less than half-time (FTE 0.01 – 0.49) = $850

Bonus Eligibility

      • Staff must be continuously employed from Nov. 1, 2021 (or before), through Jan. 21, 2022.
      • Allowable interruptions to employment include workers’ compensation leave, FMLA leave, and non-FMLA leave with uninterrupted pay.
      • Regular substitutes, temporary employees, and coaches are not eligible for the one-time bonus. 

Additional Information

      • These thank you bonuses are possible because of lower spending last year due to COVID-19 impact (restrictions on staff and student travel, transportation, unfilled positions, etc.).
      • This bonus is not PERA includable.
      • Applicable IRS taxes will be withheld from the bonus check.
      • The Department of Labor considers this type of bonus “discretionary,” which means the bonus will not impact hourly wages.

Once again, thank you for all you do each day. YOU are the heart of our district!

Here’s how those numbers break down:

      • A total of 2,873 staff members received bonuses
      • Of that total, 1,371 are teachers
      • The gross amount of the bonuses totaled $4,680,701.45
      • There are 38,509 households in Academy District 20
      • Every household (including those without school aged children) in Academy School District 20 paid out $121.55 each for these bonuses

We asked Academy School District 20 Board President Tom LaValley for comment. Here’s his email response:

The board unanimously approved a one-time $1,700 bonus for full time staff members with lesser amounts for those who are part time. The board was pleased we could recognize the extraordinary efforts of our staff with financial support through this one-time bonus. These unexpected bonus checks were possible because of lower spending during 2020-21 due to the impacts of COVID-19. For example, we had lower salary expenditures due to unfilled staff positions and decreased expenses on staff travel to conferences and trainings.

Regards,

Tom LaValley

I followed up with additional questions.

Hi Mr. Lavalley,

Was this the only expenditure where the money could be used? Could it have been used for:

      1. Next year’s budget?
      2. School renovations?
      3. Or any other purpose?

Thank you for your time.

Best,

Rebecca

Mr. LaValley replied below.

Ms. Marshall,

     The funds were unencumbered so they could have been used for anything.

Tom LaValley

We appreciate Mr. LaValley getting back with us so quickly. Many elected officials don’t.

Now, you might think that the bonuses were warranted, or you might think the money could have been used for something else.

As a D20 homeowner for 23 years, my kids spent many years in D20 schools for both academics and athletics. During that time, I chose to be generous with my money over those years, and gave teachers and coaches gifts on different occasions. That is different than politicians deciding to be generous on my behalf. Especially at a time when many people lost income over the past two years during the shutdowns.

These bonuses seem to follow in the footsteps of other local governments.

Colorado Springs Utilities, El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs have all generously handed out big raises recently.

Tough times are ahead, as inflation and rising prices are hitting everyone hard. Government is awash in extra cash and instead of putting it aside, they are spending it rapidly. Why not put the money back into next year’s budget and save it for a rainy day? Rain is always in the forecast. Now is the time to be reasonable.

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