With budget shortfall looming, San Marcos CISD board increases pay for hourly workers

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The San Marcos CISD board of trustees approved a pay raise for hourly employees at a meeting Monday night. School bus drivers, crossing guards and clerical professionals are considered to be hourly employees in the district.

The new minimum wage for hourly manual trade professionals—including custodians and bus drivers—is $10.60 per hour. The new minimum wage for clerical professionals—including instructional assistants and registrars—is $10.80 per hour.

Hourly employees who are in a higher pay range received a $1 per hour raise. The district has 301 hourly employees making less than $15 per hour, district officials said.

The board also approved increasing the district’s share of health insurance coverage for district employees, with the district’s contribution expanded from $341 to $351 monthly.

The raise was necessary, said Susan Seaton, president of the San Marcos Educators Association. SMEA is the only teacher’s association that has hourly employees as members, she said.

Hourly employees deserve a living wage, Seaton said.

“Our hourly employees are the first people our children see every single morning when they get on that bus,” Seaton said. “They are the last [people]that they see every single afternoon. This is who cleans our schools and makes sure they are safe. These are the people who cook [the] meals that may be the only time our children eat.”

According to the current budget projections, the district is anticipating a $1 million surplus, but that projection does not factor in recent budget amendments which total $2 million.

Before the board adopted the pay increases for hourly workers, Trustee Anne Halsey motioned for the board to approve a $15 per hour wage for all hourly employees as well as proposed the district no longer administer the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests until the state begins giving SMCISD more money to address the rising cost of educating students.

The motion died for lack of a second, and although trustees voiced support for paying all employees as much as possible, the potential for a deficit budget looms large.

“Speaking as an individual trustee, it would be great to pay everyone a lot more money, but I feel like I have to do it in a responsible manner,” Trustee John McGlothlin said. “These are salary adjustments we’re going to build on year after year after year. If we go an additional $3 million in the hole this year, we’re starting off next year with that same deficit.”

The district’s current plan calls for the minimum wage for hourly workers to increase to $12 per hour within the next three fiscal years.

Assistant Superintendent Karen Griffith said, after last night’s pay increases and the board’s May decision to increase salaries for teachers and administrators, the district is facing a potential budget shortfall of $1.7 million for fiscal year 2017-18.

In formulating the budget projection for 2017-18, Griffith assumed a 6 percent increase in property values within the district. According to the Hays Central Appraisal District, values within SMCISD increased 9.55 percent from 2016 to 2017. The exact increase will not be known until the appraisal district determines how many appraisal protests will be granted.

In addition to property tax collections, the district is funded based on a complex formula created by the state. Part of this formula features a cost index that has not been updated since the early 1990s.

Griffith said the district is hopeful that a special legislative session, which Gov. Greg Abbott requested in early June, may provide more money for public schools.

The potential changes in school funding make budget projections difficult, she said. Legislators are proposing changes to the state’s school funding system on almost a weekly basis, and Griffith said she assumes the district will get the same amount of money it received last year from the state. However, she said the district could find itself in a better financial situation when the special session ends.

“From what we understand there will be no cuts to education, but we don’t know if there will be [funding]additions,” Griffith said.

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Brett Thorne reported on education, business, economic development and city government in San Marcos, Kyle and Buda from 2012 to 2017. Thorne attended Texas State University in San Marcos, where he graduated in 2010. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in 2012 and was promoted to editor in 2013.
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