Monte Alto is latest district to approve pay hikes

The Monte Alto Independent School District Board of Trustees approved salary increases during a board meeting Tuesday evening.

Teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians will receive increases based on tiers of experience. These district employees with less than five years of experience will have a projected increase of $4,000, $4,200 for those with six to 12 years experience, $4,400 for staff with 13 to 19 years of experience, and $4,600 for those with over 20 years experience to gain the largest increase.

Board members also approved compensation for district administrators and other staff members.

Non-administrative staff received $1,515 from legislative funds and another $485 from local funds, to a total of a $2,000 salary increase. District and campus administration received $4,500 for their pay increase.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature of House Bill 3, which reformed school finances, property taxes and mandated increased pay for teachers played a role in the district’s pay increase. 30% of funds received from the state revenue must go to pay increases. 75% of this amount is to be directed toward teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians at the district. The remaining 25% will be allocated to the remaining non-administrative staff.

For Monte Alto ISD, with a tier 1 calculation of about $1.3 million from the state, the 30% dedicated to pay raises equals to about $394,000 as discussed in the board meeting.

The then standing superintendent, Richard Rivera, who recently took up a position as interim superintendent at the Edcouch-Elsa school district, praised the increase for employees at Monte Alto ISD. This is a relatively small school district in Hidalgo County, which has a student enrollment of less than 1,000 students as of the end of the 2018-19 school year, according to the superintendent report.

“ It’s a hard-working staff at Monte Alto ISD, and I feel that we were able to give them a good pay raise (that) they deserve,” Rivera said.

Rivera has been a superintendent for over 20 years, spanning Weslaco, Edcouch-Elsa and Monte Alto school districts, he said. He also serves as a board member for Weslaco Independent School District.

“ This is the one, the session that has given the staff members the biggest raise, during the last 22 years that I’ve been superintendent,” Rivera said.

The school board initially planned to meet on June 25, but heavy rains and inclement weather on June 24 led to a cancellation and rescheduling the meeting.

Rivera also provided updates to the district finances.

The current fund balance is about $2.9 million, an increase from about $2.4 million from when Rivera’s tenure as superintendent began in June 2017. The “state requirement for a three year reserve is $2,650,000,” according to the superintendent report.

Other local school districts such as McAllen, Sharyland and Mission passed compensation increases in June following House Bill 3’s passage.

With Tuesday being Rivera’s last board meeting with the district, the board discussed applicants for a replacement during executive session. Rivera began his work as interim superintendent at Edcouch-Elsa ISD on Monday, a district he led for nearly five years as a former superintendent.

O’Hanlon, Demerath and Castillo, a law firm that provides legal services to several school districts in Hidalgo County, will assist the district with the search for a new superintendent.

jhoang@themonitor.com