Weslaco, PSJA schools OK pay raises

School boards in Weslaco and PSJA ISD are the latest to approve pay raises, joining local school districts enacting similar measures following the 86th Texas Legislative session.

In Weslaco, trustees approved the measure during a meeting Monday evening.

Andres Sanchez Jr., assistant superintendent of business and finance for Weslaco ISD, presented the ad-ministration’s recommendations, which included compensation for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses based on four tiers.

The lowest amount is $3,400 for these employees with one to five years of experience, $3,600 for staff with six to 12 years of experience, $3,800 for employees with 13-19 years of experience and $4,000 to those with 20 years and over in experience.

These are numbers based on a 187-day contract. Total compensation for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses adds up to about $5.1 million for over 1,200 employees in this category.

Counselors’ compensation will be adjusted for their longer contracts, 203, 207 and 212 days, according to the presentation.

Paraprofessionals and staff members of manual and technical trades will receive a 7% increase from the mid-point per employee category ranges of pay raises. This will cost about $2.1 million total for this group.

Trustee Erasmo Lopez said during the board meeting that administrators should also be fairly compensated for their work and made a motion to approve the increases, along with a slight increase for administrators in the proposed plan.

Administrators will receive a 5% raise for the “Mid-Point Per Employee Category to be Paid from Local Funds,” up from 4% that was originally proposed in a presentation.

“With additional monies comes additional expectations, additional goals, and you all have met it … every year every school has improved,” board President Isidoro Nieto said addressing Superintendent Priscilla Canales and other leadership figures.

Nieto also commended teachers who are “in the trenches” and the principals that help create the “morale-building culture” at their schools.

Compensation plans for all employees will cost over $8 million following a legislative measure.

The compensation plans were met with applause from the audience, made up of administrators, employ-ees and members of the public.

For PSJA schools, teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses with one to five years of experience will see an annual increase of $3,000. These PSJA staff members with six to 10 years of experience will receive $3,250; employees with 11 to 15 years will obtain $3,500, and those with 16-20 years will get a $3,750 pay hike.

The tier with 21 years of experience and over will receive the largest amount, with $4,500 pay increase to their salaries.

All other professional and exempt employees will receive a 3% increase from the mid-point and hourly employees will get a 6% increase from the mid-point, according to a news release.

“We are excited to announce pay increases across the board for all PSJA ISD employees,” PSJA board President Jesse Zambrano said in the release. “Our compensation package is robust and competitive. As a board, we wanted to send a clear message to the PSJA Family that we value all of our employees, especially our most tenured and hard working teachers and staff.”

Superintendent Dr. Daniel King called students and employees the district’s priority.

“I commend the work of our administrative team, especially our Finance and Human Resources teams for the hours they put in to not only balance our budget but ensure our 4,700 employees receive a considerable raise,” King said in the release. “A special thank you goes to our school board members for approving this budget plan that provides our teachers and other employees with by far the biggest increase in compensation in memory.”

Gov. Greg Abbott approved of House Bill 3 in June, which reformed school finances, provided property tax relief and mandated a certain amount of state revenue to go toward pay increases for school district employ-ees. School districts must spend at least 30% of state revenues following the recent law into compensation; 75% of this amount is mandated toward teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors. The remaining 25% must go toward non-administrative staff.

Although the recently approved law does not dictate a certain amount to administrators, other school dis-tricts have found ways to compensate them, such as using local funds. Weslaco will also follow this trend to compensate their administrators.

Board Vice President Richard Rivera was the only trustee not present during Monday’s board meeting.

However, he was also involved in the process, Nieto said, who praised Rivera’s proposal for a plan to divide the compensation into four tiers.

Monte Alto and Edcouch-Elsa, other Mid-Valley school districts, also approved of pay increases in July. Rivera was instrumental in this process, as he currently leads the Edcouch-Elsa school district as interim superintendent and previously served as superintendent at Monte Alto schools for two years.

The trustees also approved a measure to hold a public hearing on Aug. 26 to discuss the proposed budget and tax rate for fiscal year 2019-20.

The salaries make up a majority of the budget, and future workshops will address other issues, Sanchez said. The district must approve and finalize the budget before Sept. 1 for fiscal year 2019-20.