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School Board approves pay increase for all staff

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Teacher compensation has been a topic of conversation among board members and in public comment at board meetings, and the trustees have heeded the call in an effort to make sure San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District teachers feel valued and choose to remain with the district. The SMCISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a 3% pay increase for all staff at the regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

SMCISD Board President Anne Halsey said all in favor of approving Model Four with a starting salary of $55,000 and a 3% plus longevity pay and an insurance increase for all employees should raise their hand. The vote was unanimous in favor of this.

SMCISD Business and Finance Executive Director Michael Doyle gave a presentation on the possible pay increases and the impact on the budget. He started by showing salary increase models across an array of different percentage increases. Model One was a 1% salary increase with longevity pay. Model Two was a 1.5% salary increase with longevity pay. Model Three was a 2% salary increase with longevity pay. Model Three was a 3% increase with longevity pay.

“You can see with Model One with 1% cost estimates are $79.4 million [Total Salary Cost],” Doyle said. “As you go along you can see Model Two is $79.7 [million]. Model Three is $80.1 [million], and Model Four is $80.8 [million].”

Doyle then discussed the total expenditures for each model.

“I’ve been predicting off of an $84 million revenue estimation. We’re [now] looking at being slightly over $85 million, not by much, but $85.3 million compared to $84 [million] in our estimated revenues for next year,” Doyle said. “As you look down the line you can see again how those salary impacts come in. You can see how our M&O [Maintenance and Operations] expenditure budget is set across the board. You can also see ... the total expenditures when you calculate the staff and all of your other expenditures in the budget. Model One will have a total expenditure of $101.4 million. Model Two is $101.7 million. Model Three is $102 [million], and then Model Four is $102.8 [million].”

SMCISD Trustee of District-1 Jessica Cain made a motion to adopt Model Four, which is a 3% salary increase.

“We’ve heard from the teachers. … We’ve had lots of discussions about these operating expenses, and we are consistently going to be able to stick with that even with Model Four,” Cain said. “I know it’s scary to look at our fund balance decreasing, but we can’t rightfully be angry with the governor for not using the rainy day fund, if we’re not willing to do it ourselves.”

SMCISD Vice President Clementine Cantu said that she believes the staff deserves the 3% pay increase.

“It’s heartbreaking that we can’t give more,” Cantu said. “I mean I wish that we could give 4 or 5%, but I’m going to support Model Four.”

SMCISD At-Large Trustee Juan Miguel Arredondo said he is now on his ninth salary and benefit vote and has seen a trend. He added that salary increases can’t continue each year without action from the state or locally. He would like to consider a voter approved tax rate election item to support any future salary increases.

“[We’re] teed up to approve a deficit budget, but yet the fund balance even estimated at the end of this coming fiscal year at $30 million is more than the fund balance was when I was elected in 2015,” Arredondo said. “It’s still very challenging and confusing to me year after year approving a deficit budget but returning money to fund balance and watching it grow significantly over the past decade. I don’t think that that trend is going to continue if I’m being honest. I think we’ve gotten lucky, I’ve gotten lucky as a board member. This salary increase is not sustainable. This year and the following year we’re going to have to make some very difficult decisions.”

Halsey said she also supports Model Four with a 3% increase to all staff.

“I think in order to stay competitive and continue to attract the best new teachers coming out of Texas State and our surrounding universities that we have to go continually increasing our starting pay, and I think this puts us in a good position to do that,” Halsey said. “I know it’s difficult, but I also agree with Mr. Arredondo that we need to seriously consider putting that … tax on the ballot in November because I don’t know that we …. have the funds to do an increase, certainly not of this size, and potentially not at all next year.”

Doyle said the state allows the district to have up to eight golden pennies and copper pennies in addition to that. Those terms refer to the way the state assesses tax dollars as part of the funding formula for districts.

“The benefit of the golden penny is that they are not subject to recapture. We have fallen out of recapture. If you remember, last May, we went through our election, and we approved that anticipating SB2 to go through. It did, but with our property values, they continue to go up. So as property values increase, so does your chance of incoming recapture districts,” Doyle said. “The overall tax rate has actually declined since 2019. Currently we’re sitting at one of the lowest tax rates that we’ve had within our history.”

Doyle said the school district currently has six Golden Pennies and voters would need to approve any additional ones.

“We could potentially, by adding two Golden Pennies, be at a lower total tax rate than we currently have this year,” Doyle said. “So, what is the potential revenue that we would have off of these Golden Pennies if they were approved by our constituents? Now again using the data that we have … shows us that if we have one additional Golden Penny it would earn the district about $1.38 million. If you were to obtain two Golden Pennies you would have roughly $2.75 million.”

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666