Dripping Springs ISD approves salary increases for staff, fiscal year 2019-20 budget

Scott Thomas, a district teacher's spouse, supported increasing raises for teachers during public forum at the board's June 24 meeting.

Scott Thomas, a district teacher's spouse, supported increasing raises for teachers during public forum at the board's June 24 meeting.

In a late-night decision, Dripping Springs ISD’s board of trustees at their June 24 meeting voted to approve new teacher compensation rates for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, including a 5% raise for teachers with five or more years experience and 4% raises for all other district employees.

The compensation plan vote came as a decision to amend the compensation plan originally proposed by Superintendent Bruce Gearing and Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Scott Drillette earlier in the night, which included 4% raises for veteran teachers and 3% for other staff.

The compensation plan was approved after trustees had already approved DSISD's general fund budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. According to district documents—which were created prior to the approved pay increases—the budget includes about $62.5 million in revenues and roughly $63.2 million in budgeted expenditures.

In previous years, staff raises have hovered at 2-3%, without differentiation between varying years of experience, according to the district. This year, amendments to teacher compensation rates in districts across Texas have been spurred forward by the recent passage of Texas House Bill 3, a school finance bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott June 11.

At least 10 teachers and community members weighed in on the issue, receiving applause from the audience, after Gearing’s initial presentation, many expressing disappointment at DSISD’s proposed rate of increase relative to nearby districts, including Austin ISD, which recently approved a 7% raise for veteran teachers.

Melanie Dykhoff, a teacher at Walnut Springs Elementary School, said the district’s proposed raises of 3 and 4% were representative of an attitude of doing “just enough.”

Scott Thomas, the husband of a district teacher, expressed that rates might not be enough to retain teachers.

“Moving forward, my wife and I are discussing what to do in the future, and I’m advising her to weigh her options,” Thomas said.

In the board’s discussion of the issue, trustee Marisa Grijalva expressed concern about the possibility of losing educators to neighboring districts based on the night’s feedback. She asked how increasing compensation by another percentage point would affect the budget.

“I worry about morale,” Grijalva said. “That was a big show of people, and I think that was very representative of the district as a whole.”

Drillette confirmed that the board had the ability to push closer to a permitted deficit of 2%, although it might affect the district’s ability to issue retention bonuses to staff later this year.

Gearing cautioned the board to be “fiscally responsible,” saying that any raises approved this year would become precedent in years to come. However, he said he would support the board’s decision.

“We’re prepared to take that risk with you if that’s what you decide to do,” he said.

The amended compensation plan passed 5-1, with Ron Jones voting against, and with Shannon O’Connor absent.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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