Cy-Fair ISD board members unanimously supported salary increases for all district employees in the upcoming school year at a June 13 meeting, but agreed that income constraints prevented them from approving the raises they felt the staff deserved.
All employees will receive a 2% wage increase in 2022-23 along with a $1,000 recruitment and retention allowance for full-time professionals and a $2,000 allowance for full-time paraprofessionals and hourly workers.
At the June 9 board meeting, Administrator Debbie Blackshear said she believes teachers got bigger raises, but state funding levels are limiting the district.
“If I could, I would give our teachers a 10% pay raise because we know…how hard you work and can say with certainty that you have earned it, but to do so would be fiscally irresponsible to our part,” she said.
The $1.16 billion budget includes a deficit of $109 million, with state aid accounting for 40.7% of revenue and local property taxes accounting for 56.9% of revenue. However, Superintendent Mark Henry said federal stimulus funding should make up the difference for the district to maintain a balanced budget.
Employees received bigger increases in 2021-22 — 5% for all staff plus a $1,000 stipend for hourly employees — but district officials are already bracing for budget cuts in 2023-24 when funding federal stimulus is no longer available.
Chief Financial Officer Karen Smith said that as local property tax revenue increases with rising property values, the state is decreasing its financial support to districts. Other factors affecting the budget included student enrollment, recruitment and retention difficulties, and inflation.
Smith called the 2022-23 plans a “transition budget” and urged the community to ask state lawmakers to increase the per-student allocation and consider the effects of inflation when determining the funding that receive public schools.
“The state is always leveling us,” she said. “We basically get a certain amount of revenue per student, and as our property values go up, they will decrease our public funding. The only way a school district will really get additional funding is if your enrollment increases or your average daily attendance increases.
Chandra Villanueva, director of the economic opportunity program at the nonprofit legislative advocacy organization Every Texan, said state leaders have done little to improve school funding formulas as frustrated teachers sought to leave the profession.
“Quite frankly, our school funding system is more than inadequate to provide high quality education, and the legislature is not making the necessary investments that we need to support our teachers in schools,” she said. .
In addition to the increases for existing staff, CFISD also increased the starting salary for teachers to $60,500 in 2022-23 from $58,500 in 2021-22. Smith said that move along with general increases of 2% would cost the district about $18.2 million.
According to Smith, the DSI’s neighboring districts of Klein, Tomball and Katy are CFISD’s main competitors for staffing. Those districts have planned teacher starting salaries of $60,000, $57,500 and $60,700, respectively, she said.
Nikki Cowart, president of the local teachers’ union Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers, said she believed that while CFISD had decent starting salaries, more experienced teachers had been overlooked. The union has demanded 7% raises, paid bereavement days, extra pay for teachers covering other classes and stipends for bilingual employees who serve as translators.
“We know there are over 20 school districts in Harris County alone, and we’re all fighting for the same workforce,” she said ahead of the June 13 budget approval. .
Taking allowances into account, hourly workers will see an average salary increase of 12% in 2022-23, while teaching paraprofessionals and teachers will see average increases of 11.1% and 3.9%, respectively, according to district data. Executive management will see the smallest percentage increase at around 2.6%. The cost of the allowances will be approximately $22.7 million.
Substitute teachers will see their salaries increase by nearly 20%, from $92 to $110 a day, at a total cost of $4.2 million. Another $15 million has been set aside to hire additional educators to accommodate district growth.
Chairita Franklin, assistant superintendent of human resources, said while some turnover is typical at CFISD, quits have increased by about 20% this year.
“As with every school district in the state, people are leaving the profession and transitioning,” Franklin said.
Respond to additional needs
Following preliminary budget discussions in May, Henry said district leaders met with principals to learn their priorities.
One suggestion that resulted from these conversations was the hiring of a behavioral interventionist or testing coordinator for each elementary and middle school campus based on each school’s needs. It will cost the district about $6 million to fill those 76 roles, which are designed to help address discipline issues and reduce the workload for school counselors, officials said.
Administrator Lucas Scanlon said he thinks investing in those new positions would be more valuable than using that $6 million for bigger pay raises.
“When I spoke to teachers, … the priority I heard is that it’s more about the school culture and the quality of classroom life and the ability to deliver their curriculum than the money,” he said. said.
The council also approved the allocation of $400,000 to hire six additional district police officers.
This will bring the force to a total of 116 officers when fully staffed, allowing the department to expand patrol operations. Police Chief Eric Mendez said while officers are assigned to patrol secondary campuses, there is only one officer available to cover all seven to nine elementary campuses.
“I could use maybe four to six additional officers to cover the patrol so that we always have that redundant coverage to make sure we can respond and handle an incident when it happens on campus,” Mendez said.
CFISD leaders and trustees have repeatedly expressed disappointment with the Texas Legislature for a lack of adequate funding. Administrator Julie Hinaman said the district has always used good financial management to end fiscal years with a surplus even when deficits were projected, but that will no longer be the case based on current state funding formulas. .
“Unless changes are made in the next legislative session next year, ISD will fail financially. It is so, and it will be so unless it changes,” she said.
As state aid stagnates, district costs continue to rise. Without federal stimulus funding beyond 2022-23, the CFISD fund balance is expected to decline. Budget cuts are more likely than wage increases in 2023-24, officials said.
“There is no mechanism in place at the state level to take inflation into account, so when you have a year where inflation increases as it has for the last two years, it does not there is no adjustment to the base allocation, which allows us to operate,” Henry said in May.
Villanueva said that because the state’s base allocation is not based on the true cost of public education, every Texan has argued for a cost-based analysis or for the state to adjust the allocation of basis for inflation each year.
Hinaman said there was no shortage of money for teacher pay raises, school safety, closing learning gaps and mental health care, but the state government hold these funds. She noted that Texas expects to have $15 billion in its Economic Stabilization Fund in addition to a $12-15 billion surplus in the state budget at the start of the next legislative session in 2023. .
However, state leaders announced some relief to public school employees in April when Gov. Greg Abbott committed $435 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to ensure health insurance premiums don’t. not increase in 2022-23 for those enrolled in the Texas Health Insurance Program Teachers’ Retirement System.
Most CFISD enrollees will pay about $22 to $75 less each month for health care coverage depending on their plan, according to district documents. According to Cowart, past salary increases have mostly gone to year-over-year increases in insurance premiums.
“If we discuss [TRS-ActiveCare] bonuses that don’t go up next school year, we definitely should have included all the years that they went up and consumed a lot of past salary increases,” Cowart said.