The approved 2022-23 compensation plan outlined the following terms: a $15 minimum hourly rate; a 5% increase at midpoint for teachers, nurses and counselors; a 4% increase at midpoint for all other eligible staff; and the use of the LISD fund balance, if necessary, to pay for the 2022-23 total compensation plan.
With the 4% and 5% salary increases for teachers and other employees, LISD would be looking at $18.8 million in total compensation plan costs.
The board also approved a one-time lump sum retention payment. That payment amount will be determined in future board meetings.
The compensation plan for the 2022-23 school year and the one-time payment was approved by a 5-2 vote.
The plan the board approved strayed from the initial recommendations, which included a 2% of midpoint across-the-board base salary increase to all regular employees, including teachers.
Additionally, the initial recommendations proposed an additional 3% salary increase for teachers and an additional 2% salary increase for all other employees, contingent on the board approving an increased fiscal year 2022-23 tax rate of nine more pennies and voters ratifying the 2022-23 tax rates in the November election.
LISD is expecting to hold a voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, on Nov. 8, which could provide LISD at least $20 million in revenue if approved by voters.
Board members Aaron Johnson and Elexis Grimes, who voted against the compensation plan, both expressed concerns about the risks associated with 4% and 5% salary increases, even if the VATRE doesn’t pass.
“If we commit the full raise and the VATRE doesn’t pass, what’s the future? I don’t know. Have we bet the farm on the VATRE? I’m not comfortable doing that,” Johnson said at the May 19 meeting. “If we approach this with a more modest initial raise and the VATRE doesn’t pass, still a bad situation, but we haven’t lost the farm—we can still recover.”
In the past two weeks, LISD conducted three listening sessions with district staff about the proposed compensation plan.
During the listening sessions, district staff expressed concern on how to retain LISD’s existing quality staff, signing a contract without knowing whether the VATRE will pass or not and how the district will effectively communicate about the VATRE.
“Between those emails, citizen comments [and] personal discussions, it was just very clear that 2%, just of an initial 2%, was just not going to work,” Board Member Sade Fashokun said at the meeting. “[Teachers] have given so much, and then now we’re asking them to possibly wait for a VATRE; it’s just too much.”
Grimes asked what the district can do now to support staff rather than waiting on the VATRE in November. LISD’s budget shortfall has been reduced from over $30 million to $6 million, Superintendent Bruce Gearing said, which opens up the possibility for the district to address this problem sooner.
“We would recommend a one-time payment of some kind. If the board was interested in us looking at that more carefully, we can do that,” he said at the meeting. “That has the potential then to possibly buy people over a little bit until the new raises kick in.”
The board discussed a one-time payment of $1,000 to every district employee out of the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, putting LISD in a deficit, which would reduce the starting fund balance of next year’s budget.
“The only reason we feel comfortable with that is because we had anticipated spending some of that money out of fund balance this year anyway, and it seems like we’ll end up in a better place than we were,” Gearing said at the meeting. “We’ll still be in deficit, but less deficit than we anticipated.”
Board Member Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia voiced concern about district staff leaving LISD altogether if there is only a 2% pay increase.
“At that 2%, we are below market, and we can’t be below market, not at that rate,” she said at the meeting. “Or we will not be able to keep those educators that we pride ourselves on.”
On May 19, LISD launched a website to inform residents on school finance in the state of Texas and how it influences what happens in LISD. Visit www.leanderisd.org/smartmoney for more information.