The Webster Parish School Board could be back to square one with offering a new salary schedule for its employees.
After a district-wide vote on four options on how to better structure the salary schedule, more than 400 employees voted to keep the salary structure as it is. In a finance committee meeting Monday, Finance Director Crevonne Odom released the results of the vote.
It is as follows:
Option 1: The first option she proposed is to reduce employees’ salary schedules which are built from the teachers’ salary schedules by $4,000. This means that current employees would not be affected, but rather new hires. The vote count was 73.
Option 2: This option was the redistribution of the 1969 sales tax. The vote count was 42.
Option 3: This option is a combination of options 1 and 2. The vote count was 89.
Option 4: Leave the salary schedule as it is. The vote count was 412.
The ballots were distributed district-wide to those employees who receive a supplement from the 1969 sales tax. A total of 616 employees cast ballots.
Odom made it clear that these votes are indicative of what the employees want, but ultimately the board has the authority to make the decision on what will take place.
“Something has to be done,” she said. “We have to move forward. We have to go forward thinking of what we’re going to do for the future. This only addresses the salary schedule portion of what needs to be done.”
She says Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls is looking at some other ways to be proactive in seeking a solution to an ever shrinking budget. At this time, Rawls says they are waiting on some information from the state before they can move forward.
She says she felt like some would not be happy with anything short of a pay raise, but the money is not there for a pay raise.
“I don’t know how else to say it,” she told the board. “The way the finances are now, with what is going to happen with the state department, there is just not a way to do it other than dipping into reserves. If that’s what the board wants me to do, then that’s what we’ll do. But that is against what I would recommend, because Dr. Rawls and I have been trying to build up the fund balance so that we can get back to an even more sound bond rating with Standard and Poor. We can only do that if we add to the fund balance.”
District 11 Board Member Jerry Lott says wouldn’t be comfortable voting for something the teachers and employees wouldn’t be happy with.
“I was pleased to hear that there are other things being considered, other than the fund balance,” he said. “I think from what’s been done up until this point, we can conclude that we can’t do any of these. With that kind of vote from the people that we depend on to carry the water, we can’t do these when 412 of our personnel say they can’t accept that.”
District 6 Board Member John Madden says the problem is with the high salary schedule. He says while the board can consolidate the schools, the issue remains getting pay down to an acceptable level.
“If you want to save this system, you’ll cut the salary schedule,” he said. “If you’d have cut the salary schedule three years ago, you’d have saved $300,000 this year. I know this thing is headed to a train wreck.”
WPSB currently has a $49 million budget. Only roughly $7 million of that is in the general fund. Odom says 85 percent of that $7 million is dedicated to salaries and benefits. The remaining 15 percent covers things like textbooks, utility bills and the board’s other expenses.
The school board is facing a nearly $1 million cut in their budget for the 2016-17 school year, and Rawls says they are trying to account for that and structure the new budget with that in mind.
“This year’s budget is solid,” he said. “Next year, the big question mark is the MFP, and Sen. Ryan Gatti said to prepare for worst case scenario, which is exactly what we’re going to do. Until the state tells us what they’re going to do, we have to prepare for worst case scenario. Can we handle that? Sure. Basically what it is is attrition. When people leave, we just don’t fill the slots.”
A special meeting will be Monday, May 16 at 6 p.m., with a finance committee meeting set at 4 p.m. In the finance committee meeting, the salary structure will again be discussed, and during the 6 p.m. meeting, the board is expected to take a vote.