Editor's note: This article was updated at 11:51 a.m. on May 26 to clarify that the board passed a $600 increase to employee health insurance.

Pearland ISD approved a 4% salary increase for teachers at its May 19 meeting. The board also approved an increase to beginning teacher salaries, funded equity adjustments and added more money to employee health insurance.

The 4% salary increase, which will cost the district a little over $5 million, will help keep Pearland ISD competitive with surrounding districts, according to the meeting agenda.

“For the first time in a long time, I feel like we have a really good budget walking into this decision for you guys,” said David Moody, assistant superintendent for human resources services. “It gives us a chance to make up some ground—as [Superintendent] Dr. [John] Kelly has mentioned a couple times, word on the street is most districts around us will be hard-pressed to give this kind of raise.”

The board also voted to allocate an additional $402,785 in an equity adjustment to employees whose salaries do not align with those of their peers of the same title. The recommendation also increased the beginning teacher salary from $56,000 to $58,100.

The board passed a $600 increase to employee health insurance. The district had originally planned for a $300 increase and to raise it to $600 would cost an additional $405,550. The board will have to dip into its reserve fund to pay for the additional $300.

During the discussion, Trustee Jeff Barry said that was in favor of increases to benefits rather than solely salary-based increases.

“We spend a lot of time keeping up with the Joneses, and I think we finally did that this year. We can’t always make it about base salaries and average salaries. We have to have some other mechanism to attract and retain good employees, and benefits are one of those,” Barry said.

Trustee Lance Botkin said these kinds of decisions are the reason the reserve fund exists, especially at this time.

“I’m all in for going to $300. Anything we can do with the benefits package is great. As far everything else goes, we have a fund balance for a reason, right? I don’t want to spend it as fast as we have it, but we need to think about that we have a fund balance during times like this,” Botkin said. “It’s not just a rainy day; it’s a rainy storm.”

Botkin made the motion to approve the recommendation, which was approved 6-0, with Trustee Mike Floyd absent from the meeting.