LHISD employees will see 2-6% pay increase

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By SHELLY WILKISON

Liberty Hill school trustees on Monday approved a pay increase for teachers and staff ranging from $1,000 to $2,750 depending on years of experience.

Administrators say the increase, which will cost the district $789,348, is intended to make Liberty Hill ISD salaries more competitive in the central Texas job market, bringing local salaries closer to the market median.

Human Resources Director Bob Mabry said the largest increase will be seen by 11 teachers, who will be starting their 12th year in the profession in the 2018-2019 school year. Those returning teachers will see an increase of $2,750 or 5.9 percent.

Those with 20 to 25 years teaching experience will see the smallest increase of 2 percent or $1,065. There are 27 current employees in that group.

The majority of employees will see pay raises ranging from 4-6 percent.

Mabry said the Texas Association of School Boards completed a salary study in March at the district’s request, comparing local salaries to those of 12 school districts in central Texas. The districts used in the comparison were selected by TASB and included Burnet, Eanes, Florence, Georgetown, Hutto, Lake Travis, Lampasas, Leander, Llano, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Taylor.

The survey found that LHISD salaries for teachers are below market at all levels of experience, but the gap was wider among those with 5 to 16 years experience.

In Liberty Hill, about 70 percent of teachers have between zero and 16 years experience, Mabry said. The pay increase, which will take effect in October, will help close the gap.

He said the pay recommendation approved by the Board includes $311,000 to bring those employees who are “too far on the other side of the market median, to bring them up, to bring those in line.

“It’s simple for auxiliary staff — it’s 2 percent (increase) from the market median,” he said. “For teachers, is where it gets more complicated. The minimum (pay increase) is 2 percent, but some will get almost 5.9 percent depending on years of experience.”

Mabry said there are 352 people currently on the teacher pay scale.

In the current school year, all employees received a $1,000 pay increase. The difference this time is that the $1,000 is the minimum raise.

“We hope to close the gap and take care of teachers,” Mabry said. “We want teachers to know that we’re doing this to be competitive in the market and that we value them.

“Next year, we hope when we look at that graph that the gap is narrowed and getting close to the market in those places where we were farther from market,” he said.

During a special meeting for trustees on May 15, Mabry explained the findings of the TASB survey and described two options for pay increases. The second option – the one not recommended by administration – would have included a 3 percent pay increase. That model, however, had a price tag of $1,021,449.

Mabry said the district asked TASB to provide two scenarios — one of which would have been more “aggressive” at closing the gap.

He said the 3 percent increase would have been more difficult to sustain.

“That Model 2 puts a lot more strain on our budget,” he told The Independent. “We’ve made a lot of recommendations for additional staff based on demographics and it seems we’re always adding teachers for growth. A new teacher costs on average $50,000, so if you bump to 3 percent and hire more staff, it gets really tight.

“We would love to get out there and be number one, but the question becomes ‘what will our budget sustain?’,” Mabry said.

While trustees voted unanimously Monday to approve the recommended pay increase, there was no discussion. Board members discussed the options thoroughly during the special meeting last week.

At that time, Board President Clay Cole appeared to be supportive of the option of a higher pay increase.

“I want to make sure we’re taking care of our professional teachers doing a professional job,” Cole said. “If that helps, I want to do that and whatever else it takes to attract and retain quality teachers. Overall, if we’re talking about $1 million, that’s less than 2 percent of our overall budget. I know it’s alot, but if it helps attract and retain top quality, it may be worth it.”

Mabry said of those school districts who responded to a recent survey by TASB regarding what types of pay increases they plan to implement in fiscal 2018, 32 percent said they would give 2 percent, 21 percent said they would give 3 percent, and 31 percent said they would give less than 2 percent.

In other business Monday, the Board seated its two newly-elected members. Election returns were canvassed during the special meeting May 15.

Kathy Major, the retired Intermediate School principal, unseated incumbent Jeff Madison in Place 4 with 414 votes over Madison’s 243.

In Place 5, voters re-elected Anthony Buck who earned 274 votes in a three-way race with Jon Branigan (242) and Russel Martin (144).

Major and Buck took the Oath of Office and took their seats on the dais.

The Board also voted to reorganize itself as it does after each election. Members elected Cole as president for another term, Vicki Peterson as vice president, and Scott Lindquist as secretary.

Trustees David Nix and Lindquist were not present Monday.

Trustees waive transfer fee
Board members voted unanimously Monday to waive the transfer fee for students who live out of the school district in the 2018-2019 school year.

“There has been a lot of discussion on this, and we’re recommending a motion to waive the fee for transfer students again this school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart. “We will leave it like this one more year. It is still beneficial to us.”

Administrators and board members had previously discussed the possibility of implementing an application fee, but Hart said the application deadline had already passed. This will be considered for the following school year, he said.

After meeting in closed session for an hour and 17 minutes, the Board accepted the resignations of Kate Abbott, high school teacher; Amber Glass, diagnostician; Jennifer Haines, counselor; JoAnn Lawhorn, Intermediate teacher; Lauren Lipinski, high school teacher; Amanda Little, Liberty Hill Elementary teacher; Sandra Lucero, high school teacher; Sandra McKinney, high school teacher; Donna Nowak, junior high librarian; Lori Stewart, junior high teacher; Kadie Tibbetts, Bill Burden Elementary teacher; and Lori Kolb, junior high teacher.

The Board approved the employment of the following: Abbie Barr, Rancho Sienna teacher; Marissa Barrios-Garza, Rancho Sienna teacher; Brennan Berry, junior high teacher; Kyndall Boone, Intermediate teacher; Halie Bradshaw, Rancho Sienna teacher; Michel Brady, Rancho Sienna teacher; Greta Burnikel, Rancho Sienna teacher; Amanda Burson, Intermediate teacher; Shelli Carnes, Intermediate teacher; Charleen Carothers, Intermediate teacher; and Aimee Chapman, Rancho Sienna teacher.

Also approved were Megan Cormack, Bill Burden teacher; Angela de los Santos, Rancho Sienna teacher; Shelley Howell, junior high teacher; Jennifer Licup, Rancho Sienna teacher; Galen Munger, high school teacher/coach; Bonnie Reichert, junior high CTE teacher; Teresa Rios, Rancho Sienna teacher; Heidi Roop-Morland, high school teacher; Aaron Russo, junior high teacher/coach; Lindsey Sunvison, high school teacher; Tamra Warner, Intermediate teacher; Heather Wright, junior high assistant principal; and Michelle Wright, junior high teacher.

Of the new employees, 11 are filling newly-created positions for the 2018-2019 academic year. Rancho Sienna has five new positions, and Liberty Hill Intermediate has three. Liberty Hill Junior High has two new positions, including a second assistant principal. Bill Burden has one new position.

District administrators anticipate the creation of additional new positions prior to the start of school due to enrollment growth.

Transportation for students in child care facilities
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Kayla Johnson asked board members to consider various options for before school care.

“It creates a hardship for parents who work outside the district,” Johnson said.

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