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Arlington school employees voted 2% raises

ARLINGTON -- Arlington school trustees approved late Thursday a budget that gives employees a two percent salary increase in the 2008-2009 school year, a move that added more than $6 million to the $9.8 million shortfall administrators projected for the coming year.

The salary increase vote, which was split 4-3, came after hours of discussion among board members. The open portion of the meeting ended just after midnight today.

Those who voted against the two percent raise argued that the board was setting itself up for future troubles by drawing on its reserves for what will amount to new yearly expense.

Those who voted in favor of the raise pointed out that other financially strapped districts in the area continue to give teacher raises. They argued that the district needed to maintain its competitiveness and show teachers they are supported.

Trustee Bowie Hogg said he worried that giving no increase would send the wrong message to young educators.

"There's a lot of teachers that love the AISD and they're going to stay no matter what, but I do think we're going to lose our pipeline" of new teachers, he said.

Starting teachers in the district made $43,332 yearly in 2006-2007, according to statistics from the state.

In addition to the across-the-board increase, the board voted to give an extra two percent increase to employees making less than $25,000 and adjust the salaries of some specialized staff members like speech pathologists.

The total cost of all the raises was about $7.1 million.

The budget approved by the board includes almost $427.1 million in expenditures, including the raises. Revenues are expected to hit $410.2 million. The district will have to draw on its reserves to make up the difference.

Administrators expect to have $82.7 million in savings at the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year. They've warned the board that letting that fund drop below $72 million could affect the district's standing with credit-rating agencies.

Polly Walton, president of the Arlington chapter of the United Educators Association, credited the board for doing "all they could do under the financial constraints the state has put us under."

"We knew they would do what they could do and we can't ask for any more," she said.

How they voted

School board members voting in favor of a two percent across the board pay increase for employees: Bowie Hogg, Sherri Wade, Peter Baron and Wayne Ogle.

Voting against the two percent hike for all employees: Gloria Pena, board president Jim Ash and Mike O’Donnell.