The Austin Community College District board of trustees adopted a budget July 8 for fiscal year 2019-20 that will include salary raises for employees across the district, including a 3% increase for full-time faculty, adjunct faculty and non-faculty staff based on cost-of-living increases and a $15 minimum wage set for all hourly employees.
District staff project ACC will bring in about $406.85 million in revenue in FY 2019-20, including an additional $22.61 million in property taxes than it had last year. That revenue will help the district fund a 5.07% increase in its expenses while keeping its base tuition and fee rates the same. The district will set its tax rate in the fall once the local appraisal districts certify their respective property tax rolls.
Homestead exemptions will remain the same—$5,000 for all residents and an additional $160,000 for seniors and those with disabilities.
At its May 6 meeting, the board discussed making adjustments to the homestead exemption for seniors and disabled, which reduces tax bills for those residents by reducing the value that is taxed. The previous policy had set a goal of maintaining the exemption at 60 percent of the median home value, but the existing exemption did not line up with that goal.
The board had an option to maintain the 60 percent goal, thus raising the exemption to $192,000 and, according to executive vice president of finance and administration Neil Vickers, collecting about $2 million less in tax revenue. Instead, the board chose to change the goal to 50 percent of the median tax levy, aligning the policy with the current exemption.
While many ACC employees will see across-the-board pay increases with the new adopted budget, a longstanding discussion about fairly compensating adjunct—or part-time—faculty will likely continue.
Adjunct faculty at ACC who are brought on board as new hires are paid on a sliding scale that is tied to the pay of their full-time colleagues. Adjunct faculty members starting at ACC make 68.75% of what their full-time counterparts make, and each rate is based on whether the professor has a master’s degree or a doctorate, Compensation Manager Dana Tucker said at a June 24 budget work session.
That ratio was set in 2010, and it accounts for the fact that adjunct faculty are not compensated for appointment office hours or administrative duties—tasks part-time faculty members have told the board they perform anyway.
Adjunct faculty make between $3,345 and $7,479 for teaching one three-hour lecture course, according to the range of salaries staff presented to the board June 24. At each level of education, those rates are at the top of the rankings as compared to eight peer institutions, including Alamo Community College, Collin College and Lone Star College.
Still, a change is overdue, according to Adjunct Faculty Association Chairwoman Samantha Ackers.
“If you look at the workload, we do what full-time faculty do,” Ackers said at a June 3 board meeting.
The board instituted a pilot program July 8 for the upcoming academic year that will offer some assistance to adjunct faculty who are “bumped”—or replaced by a more tenured faculty member to teach a course—less than a week before the course begins. Those faculty members will now have the chance to replace those hours with tutoring or advising duties. Or, if their schedule cannot be accommodated, they can accept a $300 stipend.
District staff estimate this bumping occurs in about 150 sections per semester. The board allocated $150,000 to come from student success fees—additional fees students pay for student activities and other services—to fund the pilot program in the current budget.
Trustee Stephanie Gharakhanian said she was proud ACC is a leader among its peers in adjunct pay, but the board still has more work to do to fairly compensate its faculty.
Gharakhanian introduced a budget amendment that would have increased the share of adjunct compensation to 70% of the full-time scale, but the motion was defeated by a vote of 6-3, with trustees Nan McRaven, Barbara Mink, Gigi Edwards-Bryant, Mark Williams and Nora de Hoyos Comstock voting against, while Gharakhanian and trustees Julie Ann Nitsch and Sean Hassan voted in favor.
“I still do believe that adjunct faculty as a whole—not specific to ACC, not specific to the state of Texas—generally across the country, are not paid what they’re worth,” Gharakhanian said.