Despite $10,000 increase, Hart’s salary lower than some area superintendents

By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees gave Superintendent Rob Hart a $10,000 pay raise this year, but his salary still falls behind other area school superintendents.

According to a Schools FIRST report presented to trustees Monday, Hart will earn $154,600 this fiscal year — a salary that includes compensation for vehicle and phone allowances.

“This (pay increase) still puts him at 86 percent of superintendents of neighboring schools,” said LHISD Chief Financial Officer Frank Watson. “He (Hart) is mentoring superintendents who are making more money than him and have less experience.”

Fiscal 2013 marks the second consecutive year that the Board has increased Hart’s salary by about $10,000. However, beginning in 2012, the Board restructured his contract so that allowances for vehicle and phone are now included in his total salary and not paid separately.

A comparison of 2012 salaries of superintendents in Region 13 conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards shows the median salary including allowances and benefits to be $186,548 — almost $32,000 less than Hart’s current package.

His salary is also less than Burnet CISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett, who in 2012 with only one year experience and in a district with 300 students more than Liberty Hill, was earning $163,136. Last year, Hart was also paid less than the superintendent in Lampasas ISD ($148,532).

In 2012, Liberty Hill was paying its superintendent about the same salary as Fredericksburg’s superintendent, who with benefits received $145,041.

According to a report by TASB, Hart’s 2012 salary was higher than superintendents in Wimberley ($128,700), Dripping Springs ($131,264) and Taylor ($133,440).

Neighboring districts with higher enrollments are paying more for their superintendents. In Georgetown with 10,500 students, the Superintendent earned $212,828 last year; in Leander with 33,934 students, the salary was $225,246; and in Marble Falls with 4,066 enrolled, the superintendent was paid $183,510.

The highest salaries paid to superintendents in Region 13 last year were in Austin ($326,766) and Lake Travis ($317,568). Austin showed an enrollment of 87,800 students and Lake Travis showed 7,761.

Watson said because Liberty Hill ISD is paying its superintendent below the 90th percentile of the market, it is likely that the Board will approve another pay raise in fiscal 2014.

The superintendent is evaluated in October of each year. New goals are set and previous goals are reviewed, Watson said. During an executive session Monday, the Board conducted Hart’s evaluation. The three-year contract is reviewed and extended annually in February, but a value is not assigned to the agreement until budget time in August.

Hart was hired as superintendent six years ago at a salary of $115,000, and came to Liberty Hill with six years experience as a superintendent.

Reporting an oversight

  Watson told The Independent this week that he realized shortly before Monday’s school board meeting that the 2010-2011 Schools FIRST report had included an outdated version of the Superintendent’s employment contract. The Schools FIRST report, which can be found on the school district’s website, is the only online resource for the Superintendent’s employment contracts. The annual budget document for the district that is provided to the public does not break out a superintendent’s salary from other payroll expenditures.

A superintendent’s contract as well as the salaries of all public school employees is considered public information.

Schools FIRST is a state-required report, which serves as the basis for rating a school district’s financial integrity. Each year, the Board of Trustees is required to hold a public hearing on the report that covers the academic and budget year two years prior.

In recent years, LHISD has earned the highest score possible in the Schools FIRST rating system. At Monday’s Board meeting, Watson announced that the district had for the seventh consecutive year earned a score of 70 – the highest score possible. He said about 80 percent of school districts earn a superior rating.

Watson, who accepted responsibility and apologized for the oversight as he brought it to the attention of The Independent the day after the meeting, explained that the state requires the current employment contract be included in the report. But because the report covered the 2011 academic/fiscal year, he mistakenly included the contract that was in effect during that budget year.

“I thought it was talking about the contract for the year we were discussing (in the report),” Watson said. “But in fact, it was requiring the contract that was in effect at the time of the (Board) meeting (when the report is being discussed). Last year, I put the wrong contract in the book.”

In the Schools FIRST report for 2010-2011, the salary for Hart was shown as $120,904 when in fact the salary was $144,600.

In fiscal 2010, the salary was $120,904 plus an additional $10,000 worth of allowances for vehicle and phone that were paid separately at that time, which brought the total package to $134,512.

In previous stories referencing the superintendent’s salary, school district officials referred the The Independent to the online Schools FIRST report for 2010-2011. That information, which was reported in the newspaper as recently as August, was in fact out of date.

“This was an oversight on my part, and it was a mistake I caught myself,” Watson said Tuesday. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”

Liberty Hill ISD contracted with TASB last spring to conduct a salary survey comparing school districts in the area and districts with demographic similarities. While the study did not compare superintendent salaries, information gained in the study prompted an average 3.5 percent pay increase for all employees along with an adjustment in the pay scale, which effectively placed the district in the upper 90 percent of the market.

At the time the budget was adopted in August, Watson said the pay raise meant an additional $1,530 for most teachers.

 In other business

  In other business Monday, trustees voted unanimously to eliminate a policy that previously capped a student’s grade at 70 on assignments missed due to unexcused absences.

Enrollment in the district at the end of September was 2,977 — an increase of 24 students since the first day of school in August.

Hart said the district will inform UIL on Friday that 962 students are enrolled at the high school. Hart said the cutoff for class 3A is 999. UIL is adding a class 6A for academic year 2014, which could mean a jump to 4A for Liberty Hill.

“There is a lot of speculation going on right now as to what will happen,” he said. “But two years ago, we turned in 807 (high school enrollment).”

UIL realignment is done every two years.

Liberty Hill school principals were recognized by the Board on Monday. October is Principals Month as designated by Gov. Rick Perry.