Raises OK’d for Mission school district employees

MISSION — The Mission school district trustees approved of pay increases for teachers and other staff at a board meeting Wednesday evening.

The measure increases salaries for Mission CISD teachers, nurses and other positions by 6.3% of the market median, or $3,500 for staff with one to five years of experience, and 7.2% of the market median or $4,000 for staff with six or more years of experience. All other employees will receive a 3% salary increase adjusted midpoint according to the proposal.

The minimum salary for new teachers coming to the district with no experience is $51,250 and the maximum starting pay for teachers arriving at the district with over 20 years of experience is $61,300.

“ We’ve come a long way, especially in starting pay … because of the way that we’ve worked on the budget every year, and really tighten our belts, we’ve been able to get up to a competitive level,” Trustee Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez said.

The district worked with the Texas Association of School Boards to conduct a study on the pay boost for teachers aimed at creating a competitive compensation plan and to retain quality staff, according to the news release. Administrators developed an initial plan earlier in the year that would have increased teacher salaries by $1,100, which was made possible with payroll reductions “attained through attrition and improved staffing efficiency.”

The recent state legislative session contributed to that amount and added flexibility for the district to increase compensation.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3 into law on June 11, which reformed school finances, mandated salary increases and changes in school property taxes. The recently approved bill dictates that 30% of new funding from the state be spent on compensation to employees other than administrators. 75% of this must be spent on full-time teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses, with priorities for the more experienced staff.

The board also approved a general fund budget of about $165 million and a debt service fund of almost $9 million, totaling $174 million. Instruction counts for about $85 million for expenditures from the general fund, making up the largest amount in this area. The state provides 74% of the district’s general fund and 59% of the debt service. The estimated fund balance is over $58 million.

Despite the increase for salaries, the district is lowering its property tax rate. The rate will drop to $1.2396 from the current rate of $1.3412. It will be several months before Texas Education Agency releases its 2019-20 finance report, as discussed in a presentation.

The district anticipates it will have a 14,200-student average daily attendance in 2019-20, or about a 0.9% increase from the previous year. This attendance record affects the district’s state revenue.

Earlier this month other local school districts such as McAllen ISD and Sharyland ISD, also approved salary increases.

During the meeting school board members praised Superintendent Carolina “Carol” Perez’s performance in a position she has held for about a year.

“ We had to cinch the belt and look at needs versus wants, however, once House Bill 3 finances become available, the focus will definitely be curriculum and instruction,” Perez said in her remarks.

Perez said the compensation plan will help the district retain quality staff to meet the district’s goals.

“ The support of the Board of Trustees in the process we went through together has resulted in a compensation plan that addressed many needs,” Perez said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work with the board as we strive to make sure all of our salaries are competitive. We not only want to hire the best, we want to keep them as well. Our compensation plan has the largest impact on that need.”

jhoang@themonitor.com