The Houston ISD board of education on June 18 voted down a proposed 2019-20 budget that was formulated without teacher raises and other adjustments required by new state laws, as board members peppered officials with questions and direction on how to invest some $135 million in new funding made available by state House Bill 3.
The 3-6 decision came despite multiple warnings by HISD Chief Financial Officer Rene Barajas, who said not having a budget in hand before July 1 would mean the district would not be able to open for business for the new fiscal year.
“I can’t stress enough, the safest course is to adopt tonight,” Barajas said ahead of the vote. His suggestion was to approve the vote and then pass an amendment to add raises and other measures any time before July 12, when raises would need to take effect in order to be counted toward employees’ retirement system participation.
The proposed budget did not include any raises or take into account the state’s adjusted recapture amount, but officials did present proposed compensation plans using estimated funds, including raises guaranteed by HB 3.
Of the $135 million in estimated new revenue for the district, officials estimated $36 million would offset its projected budget deficit, $42 million would go toward instructional support—with a portion of this mandated by state directives—leaving $57 million for compensation.
An additional $6.8 million in general funds was allocated to raises for a total of $63.9 million in new compensation. Raise levels for teachers, nurses, counselors, librarians, evaluation specialists and other teacher roles were proposed as follows:
- 0-3 years of experience: 3.5% for an average raise of $1,839
- 4-5 years of experience: 4.0% for an average raise of $2,111
- 6-9 years of experience: 5.0% for an average raise of $2,720
- 10-19 years of experience: 6.0% for an average raise of $3,414
- 20-24 years of experience: 7.0% for an average raise of $4,294
- 25+ years of experience: 8.0% for an average raise of $5,432
Assistant principals and deans and elementary principals would get raises of 3.5% to 5% depending on tenure. All other employees, including administrators, would receive a 3.5% raise, raising objections from some board members.
“If administration does get a raise, it should be no higher than the lowest dollar amount given to our employees,” trustee Elizabeth Santos said.
Santos and trustee Sergio Lira called for raising the district’s minimum wage to $15 from $12. To do so would cost $18 million, according to district estimates.
“It’s a laudable goal,” Barajas said. “But we have to get there incrementally. We just don’t have the capacity to do it right now given our current financial structure. … It would be fiscally irresponsible.”
Trustees will be able to vote on the budget June 27 and discussed the possibility of a workshop, which does not require a quorum, before the meeting date in order to provide further guidance on raises and other line items. The board does not have any July meetings scheduled.