INTERACTIVE: Local school districts increase wages despite budget deficits

Both Hays and San Marcos CISDs saw increases in their budgets for fiscal year 2017-18, due in part to salary raises both school boards voted to approve.


Although both school districts had budget deficits, healthy savings accounts are helping to cover expenditures.


“We did cut the deficit [of the] budget down in half,” SMCISD Assistant Superintendent Karen Griffith said at a July school board meeting. “I wanted the board to realize that we are working on that.”



San Marcos CISD



For the sixth year in a row, SMCISD anticipates a budget shortfall for the next year.


The $73.8 million budget approved Aug. 21 comes with a nearly $2 million deficit. In 2016-17 the school district’s budget deficit was $3.8 million, according to Griffith.


The new deficit is an amount the district can cover due to what Susan Seaton, Texas State Teachers Association president, calls a “healthy” fund balance, or savings account.


“They were showing a deficit budget because of how fiscally conservative they were being with their estimates,” Seaton said.



SMCISD ended the 2016-17 fiscal year with $67.6 million in expenditures, $1.8 million less than what staff expected to spend.


The 2017-18 fiscal year’s budget is also different in that it runs for 10 months instead of 12, taking effect Sept. 1 and running until June 30.


Seaton said this would enable various district departments to make necessary purchases for the next school year earlier in the summer rather than beginning Sept. 1.



The school district is anticipating an increase of students next school year to about 8,279. By the 2026-27 school year, that number is anticipated to grow to 10,225, according to Templeton Demographics, which calculates enrollment projections for school districts.



Pay raises


The new budget comes with the district’s biggest raise ever for hourly employees. The minimum wage for hourly manual trade professionals—including custodians and bus drivers—is now $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.Rising Wages


SMCISD trustee Anne Halsey asked early on in the budget process for hourly employees to be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour.


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 per employee.


Halsey said she was particularly concerned for those employees who have students enrolled in SMCISD, adding median annual household income is the greatest predictor of how a student will perform on a standardized test. In a time when the board is trying to improve test scores, she said the district should use increases in salaries to help close achievement gaps.


At the board’s Aug. 21 meeting, Halsey motioned to add an additional 50 cents to hourly employees’ salaries, which Griffith said would cost the district an additional $382,000, but the vote ended in a 3-3 tie, killing the motion.



Hays CISD


Even with a $3.4 million deficit and two schools with Improvement Required ratings from the Texas Education Agency’s most recent accountability report, HCISD is looking forward to a few positive changes for its employees in the new school year.



According to the HCISD board of trustees, 86 percent of the approved $159.9 million budget approved Aug. 31 will go to staff and faculty salaries.


The district will increase salaries for teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors by 2 percent. This will also include a $500 starting salary increase for new employees. HCISD Chief Financial Officer Annette Folmar said the results of a compensation survey and analysis pushed the board to approve an across-the-board salary increase for all staff and faculty.


“We were behind in all areas, not just teacher pay but also in other areas that couldn’t compete with other industries,” she said. “The salary study said we had a lot of work to do, and if we didn’t seriously start to close these gaps, we would never catch up.”


HCISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said the district is budgeting to have a full staff starting at an increased salary, and the competitive salaries were needed to attract the best teachers and to accommodate the need for additional teachers and staff members.



“We are [even] increasing the district’s contribution to keep employee out-of-pocket costs from absorbing the full increase in health insurance prices,” he said.


In addition, the board voted to increase the minimum wage for auxiliary staff to $9.50 an hour and custodial staff to $10.50 an hour.


Bus drivers can also expect a salary increase of about 7.8-9.5 percent, and new drivers will see a new starting salary of $16 an hour.


Savoy said he hopes the increased rates will help fill in the current vacancies for bus drivers, custodial workers and teachers.


“Our growth and need for additional teachers and [keeping] salaries competitive to attract the best teachers are among the chief contributing factors to the increases in our annual operating expenses,” he said.




To offset the deficit, the board is making several budget cuts that Savoy said should not have any major impacts on the students.


“Any time you have a budget cut, it translates to a cut in some type of service that will affect students and staff,” he said. “We believe these cuts will have the least impact on our students—that is, the cut to the central office-level, non-fixed cost department budgets.”