Huntsville ISD unveils teacher raise proposal

Huntsville school officials offered the first glimpse Thursday of a plan to offer “significant” raises to teachers in the district.

At a budget workshop, officials proposed spending nearly $2 million on salary increases for district employees, with a heavy focus on awarding veteran educators.

The proposal calls for increasing teacher salaries between 3-14%, dependent upon experience. The recommendation is to increase the salary for beginning teachers by $600, while adding 3-4.5% on the scale for teachers with less than six years. The increases are weighted to educators on the next level, topping out with a $6,800 bump in the annual salary for teachers with more than 22 years of experience.

“I think we did a good job to come up with a plan that doesn’t just meet the requirements of House Bill 3, but embraces the spirit of it,” HISD superintendent Dr. Scott Sheppard said. “The intent of the law was to reward educators with more than five years of experience and we are doing that with this plan.

“One-time bonuses come and go, so we feel that it is the best interest of the district and the teachers to embed the pay increases in their pay so they get it throughout the year.”

With the proposed budget, auxiliary employees are prepared to receive a 5% pay increase, while instructional paraprofessional employees will get a 7% increase. Administrators are set to receive the lowest raise percentage, which is proposed at 3%.

“When it comes down to it we are very competitive when it comes to pay for young teachers, but we are not competitive for veteran teachers,” Sheppard added. “We needed to push the spread for our veteran teachers in order to correct the fact that we aren’t competitive.”

The salary increases for teachers currently employed with the district range from $1,350 to $6,800.

“This is great … this is where I thought we should have been three or four years ago,” HISD trustee J.T. Langley said. “We know that we are going to get young teachers, but we have had issues with keeping our experienced ones. I think this goes a long way to repair that issue.”

Tax rate expected to drop

School officials are proposing a reduction in the tax rate for the 2019-20 fiscal year to $1.098 per $100 valuation, with a proposed $89.3 million budget. That is a 7¢ decrease from the current fiscal year, which holds a tax rate of $1.175.

“With House Bill 3, it is a benefit to be a little conservative,” HISD’s chief financial officer Paul Brown said. “The biggest change in the budget was a 59% increase in the instructional budget.”

The budget includes $82.5 million for the general fund, $2.8 million for the debt service fund and $4 million for the nutrition program.

The highlight is that for the second year in a row, the district is expected to pass a balanced budget. Officials also announced that they are expecting to put back $1.8 million in reserves coming from excess revenue from the current fiscal year.

On top of the compensation increases, the proposed budget includes increases in special education services, as well as several one-time expenses, ranging from new busses to maintenance projects across the district.

“The expenditures are balanced and for the second year in a row we are presenting a balanced budget,” Brown added. “With the additional funding from House Bill 3, we were able to drop the tax rate significantly, put money back in savings and still provide considerable compensation increases for our employees. I’m thrilled that we will be able to do all of those things.”