ARLINGTON Arlington teachers and other school district employees are likely to be getting a 3 percent pay raise for the 2013-14 school year, thanks to the school board’s motion on Thursday to add the raises to the district’s proposed budget.Final adoption will come later this month.The motion passed unanimously. The salary hike, plus equity adjustments for years of service and a boost of starting salary to $50,000, bring the proposed budget to $467.9 million.Trustees were in agreement on giving employees a pay raise, but some were less sure about the restoration of $1.8 million to the district’s health insurance contribution for employees.Trustee John Hibbs’ motion to that effect failed on 4-3. The restoration would have cost $1.8 million based on current plan participation.“What I’m not comfortable with is just adding more money to the premiums,” said board President Bowie Hogg, “ because what we don’t truly know is what’s going to happen with health care costs.”Hogg suggested taking a look at other health reimbursement options.“I think we either put the money in salary, or we put it in insurance,” said Hogg, who is a health care consultant by profession.Trustee Tony Pompa said the health contribution hike would be unfair to employees who do not participate in the district’s health plan.The planned building of a new elementary school during the 2014-15 budget year using more than $23.6 million in the district’s general funds tempered some trustees’ enthusiasm.“I want to make sure we have a balanced budget, but there are times we look at what is a deficit and what is an investment in the community,” said Trustee Jamie Sullins, “I think building an elementary school from money we have put aside without incurring more debt as an investment.”In other board action, Lesley Rhodes was named first principal of the district’s newest campus, James and Barbara Adams Elementary School. 2220 Sherry St.Adams Elementary will open its doors to students in August.Rhodes, most recently the dean of instruction and testing coordinator at South Grand Prairie Ninth Grade Center, has been assistant principal at Grand Prairie High School. She was a district reading coordinator in Fort Worth and taught at Meadowbrook Elementary. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington.Ditto Elementary also has a new principal — Karie Kuster, formerly assistant principal at Meadow Creek Elementary in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford district. She previously taught in the Fort Worth and HEB districts, and at Covenant Christian Academy in Colleyville. She has a bachelor’s degree from Cedarville University and a master’s degree from the University of North Texas.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins