February 20, 2014

Arlington trustees set March hearing on proposed pay raises

The Arlington school board calls a public hearing and final vote for March 20 on a proposal to raise pay for employees other than teachers effective immediately.

More than 2,000 Arlington school employees could be eligible for pay raises as early as next month if the school board gives final approval on March 20.

Trustees agreed Thursday night to have a public hearing and a final vote at 7 p.m. March 20.

If approved, the pay raises will be on employees’ March paychecks, chief financial officer Cindy Powell said.

Pay raises would go to those who make below the recommended minimum pay rate and would bring professionals, such as counselors and diagnosticians, up in pay at least 2 percent above pay scale for teachers with master’s degrees. Employees who have above average experience in their current job, but make below the midpoint in pay, will receive adjustments equal to 3 percent of the proposed midpoint.

Raising the salaries will cost $2.8 million annually, which is 0.8 percent of the district’s $352 million current budget. An increase in pay would cost $923,000 for the remaining 2013-2014 school year.

“Pay is one element of job satisfaction,” school board President Bowie Hogg said. “Work environment and other factors come into play.”

The district hired the Texas Association of School Boards to conduct a salary market study in September. It had been 10 years since the last study, and district leaders are pushing for competitive pay under the Achieve Today. Excel Tomorrow strategic plan.

The study found candidates for positions such as assistant principals were rejecting job offers because of pay.

Ann Patton, a senior compensation consultant with association, said managers also expressed concerns about the salaries for administrative support, paraprofessional and manual trades pay, an unease echoed by an overall market comparison conducted by the agency.

Powell said the goal is for the district to be within 5 percent of the local and state market. While administrators are within the 96 percent average of local districts and the state, administrative support employees are only within 88 percent.

The district will also to set up a performance pay model in the future, Powell said.

Under that model, employees wouldn’t be limited to a set pay schedule. Teachers, for example, would be entitled to a larger salary based on meeting certain benchmarks. While this translates to larger salaries in some districts and stipends in others, the Arlington school district has yet to map out how they would implement a performance pay model, Powell said.

“We want to recruit and retain the most effective people. This creates the foundation to move forward in the future with performance pay,” Powell said of the state association’s study.

“Performance pay is one of the pieces of our strategic plan we hope to achieve. We are not hiding that from anyone,” Hogg has said.

The state group’s study found that when the board raised the starting teacher’s salary to $50,000 in the summer, an unintentional consequence was that other experienced employees, such as counselors with master’s degrees, weren’t making what they should in comparison.

The counselors’ pay schedule is lower than teachers with master’s degrees, and slightly regressive, the study found.

But this shouldn’t be the case because counselors are required to have master’s degrees, certificates and many are former teachers, Hogg said.

While all employees received a 3 percent raise, and teachers with one to 20 years experience received equity adjustments, the district chose to look at how other paid positions stacked up compared with nearby districts, Hogg said.

The district is also considering implementing a pay range for newly hired teachers, registered nurses and librarians.

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