With school districts throughout Central Texas struggling to hire staff, including Pflugerville ISD, district officials are ramping up strategies to shore up staff retention and recruitment.

As part of that campaign, board members during a Dec. 16 meeting approved two measures involving monetary stipends and compensation boosts.

First, the board approved a one-time stipend for eligible employees totaling $2 million. Next, the board voted to approve a pay bump for hourly employees totaling $1 million.

Prior to the Dec. 16 PfISD board meeting, PfISD Superintendent Doug Killian said staffing issues within the district have been prevalent for more than a year, though he said he could not yet provide specifics of where the biggest deficits are occurring within PfISD.

During public comment Dec. 16, August Plock, president of the Pflugerville Educators Association, spoke to the severity of the issue.

"The Austin area is now considered to be the most unaffordable city outside of California," Plock said. "We're asking tonight that you support the retention stipend and compensation increase for PfISD employees. Every single district in the Austin area has job openings they are trying to fill."

PfISD Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Land said her staff has been looking at other districts throughout the area to determine the best course of action.

Land said the stipend amounts to a $500 one-time payment in February to all eligible employees, meaning they must be in good standing as of February and not planning to leave the district.

District documents state the money will come from a budget surplus from fiscal year 2020-21.

Board member Vernagene Mott spoke in favor of the measure during the meeting.

"The shortage of elementary teachers is unprecedented—never before seen," Mott said and added stipends can help with retention amid the turbulence regarding educator retention. "Our programs and mission cannot be achieved without our teachers, staff and principals."

The district Dec. 16 also ratified a market-based compensation adjustment totaling $1 million, which PfISD documents state will come from unused maintenance and operation funds from difficult-to-fill vacant positions.

The pay adjustment shifts minimum pay for various hourly staff positions up to $15 per hour. As one example, district documents show a bus monitor and day custodian positions will go up from $13.19 per hour to $15 per hour.

Superintendent Douglas Killian said the pay bump for hourly employees is necessary because hourly staff members are just as crucial to a well-operating district like teachers and administrators are. Without support from hourly staff, teachers are not free to focus mainly on teaching, he said.

"I've never been in a position where I've had to do middle-of-the-year pay increases," Killian said. "This is unlike anything I've ever seen in my career."