Keller district considers pay freeze for teachers

KELLER -- The Keller school district budget crunch may prompt a salary freeze for 2010-11, a move that some officials say could cost the district good employees in the long run.

At their June 21 board meeting, trustees plan to decide whether to approve routine step increases in salary for teachers and other instructional professionals. No raise has been considered for administrators and hourly employees.

District officials discussed salaries at a budget workshop Monday night.

If the pay scale is frozen and teachers don't receive step increases based on longevity, a teacher with 10 years' experience next year, for example, would make less than a 10-year teacher makes this year.

"Not granting a step increase will cause us to not maintain our salary structure and significantly lose our position in the market," said Penny Benz, assistant superintendent of human resources.

The district faces a possible deficit of $2.6 million to $6.4 million for fiscal 2011. Officials estimate that the step increase would cost $1.1 million.

While some trustees said they support raises, a few raised questions about the wisdom of granting increases in difficult times.

"I'm opposed to giving a raise at this point," Trustee Lara Lee Hogg said.

Keller administrators conducted an informal survey of area districts and said many plan to give 2 to 2.5 percent raises next year, in addition to step increases. Among those are Northwest, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw.

"I would hate to see us fall further behind because it's extremely hard to catch up," Trustee Jim Stitt said.

In the past several years, Keller has granted pay raises to remain competitive with other area districts. Freezing salaries means the district loses ground. "With these numbers here, it makes me very nervous for future hiring. I think it will have a long-term negative impact on hiring," Benz said.

While board members plan to tap savings as a short-term solution to some budget woes, they say it won't be an option in the future. Unless the state funding formula changes for the better, officials plan to ask voters for permission to raise taxes in 2011. "I think we need to be careful about any increase," Hogg said.