Leander ISD will distribute $5.5 million in one-time lump sum retention payments to around 5,600 employees in December.

The gist

The board of trustees unanimously approved distributing one-time lump sum retention payments of $1,000 to full-time employees and $500 to part-time employees at a Nov. 9 meeting. All active employees with the district as of Nov. 17, including auxiliary staff and teacher fellows, are eligible to receive the payments Dec. 22, while temporary employees and substitutes are excluded.

LISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing said the one-time payments are meant to incentivize and thank staff for their work.

“They do incredible work for our kids every single day. We want to compensate them as best we can,” Gearing said in an interview with Community Impact. “When we have this opportunity, we will take it every time.”

How we got here

The move comes after the board approved a $12.75 million compensation plan in May raising pay for full-time employees by 4% for the 2023-24 school year. The plan authorized Gearing to recommend a one-time lump sum retention payment to the board depending on what funding it received from the Texas Legislature.

While Gearing said the district has seen little action from the state, a surplus from last school year’s budget has allowed the district to provide $5.5 million in one-time payments to employees where state funding lacks, he said. LISD Chief Financial Officer Pete Pape said the district added $10.7 million to its fund balance from the surplus.

“I don't think we compensate them fairly and adequately,” Gearing said. “That's partly because of the constraints that we have in the school finance system from the state level, so we'll continue to do everything that we can at a local level to provide what we can.”

The impact

The payments are intended to help reduce turnover, retain staff and improve employee morale, according to the resolution.

Over the last couple of years, the district has experienced staffing shortages among teachers and auxiliary staff, such as bus drivers and crossing guards. This school year, Gearing said recruiting and retention has significantly improved.

“We've actually done remarkably well filling positions this year—better than we did last year for sure, and our turnover is declining,” Gearing said.