We like getting a salary increase as much as anyone else, so we can imagine how Denton school district staff members feel after last week’s school board vote to approve a new budget that includes a 3 percent pay hike for more than 3,000 employees.
The school board voted 6-0 Tuesday to adopt the 2012-13 budget. The general fund budget is projected to be more than $196.8 million — a 4.54 percent increase from the current year’s budget.
“I think, for me personally, being able to pass on an increase to the staff after two difficult years is gratifying,” outgoing Superintendent Ray Braswell said. “The teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and operating staff mean the world to me, and they deserve this increase and even more.”
We can understand his sense of gratification. Announcing a pay hike is always a happy task, and school district staff members deserve the increase.
As Braswell pointed out, exempt and support staff members have gone without a salary increase for two years, and teachers’ salaries have been frozen for a year.
All employees will receive the 3 percent pay increase for the 2012-13 year, with a minimum $1,000 for teachers and a minimum $700 for other employees, according to district documents.
Teachers also receive step progression raises based on years of experience.
The district intends to use savings from a change in medical plans — a combined $2.9 million over the current and 2012-13 years — to fund a portion of the employee pay hike.
The change resulted in the district’s contribution for health insurance decreasing, which means that increased costs will be passed on to employees. The pay increase is a way to return a portion of that increase in health costs to employees, officials said.
We can also appreciate Braswell’s use of the word “difficult” in describing the last two years. District officials have overcome many challenges to reach this point.
Last summer, during the 82nd legislative session, funding for public education was cut by more than $5 billion for the biennium, $1.4 billion of which was a cut to grant programs including full-day pre-kindergarten, after-school tutoring and dropout prevention.
“It wasn’t easy, but we did a majority of the hard work last year,” Braswell said. “We were prepared going into this year because we did a lot of the heavy lifting last year.”
District officials have said they intend to use $2.7 million in reserves and revenue from a projected enrollment increase to offset the reduction in the 2012-13 year. The new budget was built based on projections that the district will see a nearly 4 percent increase in enrollment and an estimated $350 million increase in taxable property values.
District officials said they will have a clearer picture of revenue generated by property tax values next month and student enrollment in September.
District officials also said they don’t intend to change the $1.53 per $100 valuation property tax rate. The 2012-13 tax rate is slated to be set in September.
Glenna Harris, school board vice president, echoed Braswell’s statements and added that the board feels good about the upcoming year.
So do we, and we commend the school district for doing its homework and coming up with a successful budget plan that provides its employees with a salary increase without requiring a tax increase.