Weatherford ISD board of trustees tabled the compensation increase in a 6-1 vote on Monday evening during the regular board meeting.
Trustees discussed increasing pay for all employees by 3 percent from the pay grade midpoint on top of the state-required pay raises for employees. They are scheduled to meet next Monday to reconsider the increase.
In the motion to table, most of the board members agreed that the compensation increase decision should be resolved by July 1. Employee contracts begin in July for 12-month and 11-month contracts, and 10-month contracts, which most teachers are on, begin in August, WISD Business and Finance Assistant Superintendent Lori Boswell said.
“The importance of adopting any compensation increase prior to an employee’s contract start date, is to ensure that all compensation is eligible for [Teacher Retirement System] contributions,” Boswell said.
Last week, WISD administrators presented a budget workshop and projected figures for revenue, expenditures and fund balance while addressing new state legislation.
House Bill 3 was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday. The bill includes $6.5 billion to pay teachers and funding for districts and $5.1 billion to lower district taxes.
Per HB 3, 30 percent of the state’s funding increase for school districts is mandated for compensation raises for all school employees except administrators, Boswell said. The money allotted for compensation raises is divided two ways: 75 percent to raise pay for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, and 25 percent for all other school employees.
WISD is recommending that all teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians with more than five years experience receive $900 in salary increases from the state while all those with less than five years experience get $650, Boswell said. All other WISD full-time employees would receive $630 each. All these amounts would be in addition to the recommended 3 percent salary increase on the midpoint.
That 3 percent compensation increase would cost WISD’s general fund about $1.7 million after taking into consideration that some employees are paid through other funding sources, Boswell said.
Boswell noted during the meeting that two other districts are also planning on giving their employees 3 percent raises on top of HB 3 while another planned on giving less.
Greg Shaw, who was voted as board secretary during the meeting, noted his frustration with the new legislation.
“After last Monday, we’re all kind of stunned and a little bit in shock because I think most of us bought into the hype coming out of Austin that we were going to have additional money,” Shaw said. “What we’re doing seems like they gave us with the right hand, took away with the left hand.”
During the board meeting, trustees questioned WISD’s efficiency, administrator pay and how teachers are paid at WISD versus other school districts.
WISD administration said they do what they can to be efficient, including leaving positions vacant. The recommended staffing increases are related to instructional or safety needs.
“If there’s ever an opening, I know everybody’s looking at do we really need to replace this person,” Boswell said. “If it’s at a campus, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that they’re able to serve the population. If it’s in our departments, we don’t need that person because of automation or technology or software. You can bet I’ve seen [Academics Assistant Superintendent Deana Lopez] downgrade several positions just because she knew it wasn’t necessary.”
Shaw made the motion to table the compensation increase decision.
“I’m just not comfortable with my level of knowledge of this at this time,” Shaw said.
Board member Tiffany Fowler was the only trustee to vote against tabling the decision. Fowler said the board has been considering the budget and compensation for months and should be ready to make a decision.
“We’ve made a lot of additions in this district and we’ve had a lot of things that are great for kids, and that’s all fine and good, but we’ve spent a lot of money on those things,” Fowler said. “I think to look at the teachers’ and/or administrators and say, ‘sorry, there’s no money for you,’ I think there’s an authenticity issue there. I think that can be a problem.”
President Mike Guest said trustees should recommend to staff specifically what data they need to make their decision.
Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks said trustees should think about what outcomes they want to achieve through compensation increases.
“If you’re OK with teachers leaving because there’s a better opportunity in a neighboring district because we’re not keeping up with what needs to be done, then that comes into play, too,” Hanks said.
Also during the meeting, trustees approved upgrading audio and visual resources for career and technology education courses. They also approved the Education Service Center Region 11 contract summary report for 2019-20.
The board reorganized and elected Brian Catlin as vice president and Greg Shaw for secretary. Mike Guest will retain his position as president.
The next board meeting is at 7 p.m. on July 15.