GRAPEVINE -- When the Grapevine-Colleyville school district received an unexpected $9.7 million in federal flood control payments in May, administrators knew what to do with the cash -- give salary increases in a multiyear plan to bring up employee pay to competitive rates, Superintendent Robin Ryan said.
The plan, approved 7-0 by the school board Monday night, calls for spending $7.2 million of the money on employee pay and socking away $2.5 million for future projects associated with the district's LEAD 2021 strategic plan.
"Our salaries have not kept up with those in neighboring districts, and we have felt the impact," said Ryan. "We have had talented and experienced people at all levels of our district leave for higher pay."
It will work like this: $1.2 million of the $7.2 million will be distributed among employees this year for permanent salary adjustments, and the remaining $6 million will be used to sustain the raises over the next five years without affecting the operating budget.
Depending on how their salaries compare with the pay for similar positions in other North Texas districts, employees will receive raises of at least 0.75 percent and in some cases as much as 10 to 12 percent.
The pay increases are in addition to the 1 percent cost-of-living raises and 1 percent one-time bonuses already approved in the district's 2012-13 operating budget.
Before this year, school employees had not received raises since 2009.
The district has received flood-control money from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Minerals and Management Services before, but the payments fluctuated between $400,000 and $1.2 million, so administrators weren't able to budget or plan on them.
Teachers will get the bulk of the money -- $733,000. District leaders hope to boost Grapevine-Colleyville teacher pay into the Top 10 among 20 neighboring districts.
Another $256,000 will be distributed districtwide among campus leadership and support personnel.
The remaining $211,000 will go to central office staff members, many of whom make significantly less than their counterparts do in other districts.
Ryan himself will receive no increase. His salary is set directly by the school board.
"It's a market-driven approach," said Ryan, explaining why the money wasn't simply handed out in equal raises for all employees. "Across the board, we would not have addressed the pay disparities with other districts. We're trying to get everyone to as close to the median pay for their positions as possible. A longitudinal approach is more fair."
Although the district dipped into savings for 2012-13 to make up a $6.4 million shortfall in the $139.6 million budget, Ryan rejected the idea of replenishing the fund balance with the extra cash. He said he believes the district was better served by remaining competitive in hiring and keeping quality workers.
District officials said they managed to build back the fund balance from a deficit last year with cost savings and other efficiencies. They remain hopeful that lawsuits school districts have filed against the state will result in relief from state budget cutting, they said.
"Over the past two years, we know we've done a good job of saving for a rainy day," Ryan said. "We didn't think it would be the right thing to do for our employees, to sock this money away."
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657