Teacher pay topic of meeting

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Four options to alleviate issues with the salary schedule for Webster Parish teachers were laid out in a finance committee meeting Monday.

Finance Director Crevonne Odom says for the 2016-17 school year, a projected $1 million in state funding could be cut from the school board’s budget, adding yet another squeeze to an already tight budget.

“We’re pretty confident in our estimation that it’s going to be about $1 million that we’re going to lose next year,” she said. “That means we have to make preparations for next year. It means that we’re going to have to cut our expenses next year.”

Ways to do that is a reduction district-wide (not just teachers) in staff by about 15 employees through attrition, reduction in transportation costs, substitute teacher costs and other areas, she said.

She laid some groundwork before offering the options, saying that in the 2010-11 year, the board had $10.3 million in reserves, and with the cuts that were made, it reduced reserves in the general fund to $7.8 million. Because of the loss of the 2.75 Minimum Foundation Program annual increase, the board lost $2.5 million. Fast forward to the 2014-15 year, the board had in its general fund an ending balance of $4.9 million, but they are now operating in the black, she said.

“In those two years, we were cut, even though we managed to come out in the black,” she said of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 years.

With that said, she offered the four options. The first option she proposed is to reduce teachers’ and all salary schedules which are built from the teachers’ salary schedules by $4,000. This means that current teachers would not be affected, but rather new hires. It also means that the next superintendent would take a pay cut of $4,000, as well as any new supervisors, principals, assistant principals, coordinators, facilitators and other employees.

Option two would take the 69 sales tax distribution, divide it by 12 months and put it into their checks monthly, leaving the November supplement at $1,000, but reducing the June supplement. The money employees won’t see in the June supplement is what is distributed over the 12 month period. It would still give teachers the full amount collected throughout the year. A portion of it would just be put into their base pay, she explained. She also emphasized those numbers would fluctuate depending on the amount collected each year.

Option three is a combination of Options one and two. The last option is to leave it as is.

She also discussed the step increases, saying her proposal is to go to a step increase every two years, instead of every three, as it currently stands.

District 6 Board Member John Madden also gave a presentation, showing a comparison between Webster Parish and its neighboring school systems. According to figures, Webster Parish teachers, principals and administrators start out at a higher salary than those of Bossier and Claiborne parishes.

“If we adopted Bossier’s whole salary schedule, over three years, we would save over $307,000,” he said.

Another concern he voiced is the dismal picture painted for the teachers’ retirement system. In 2014-15, 28 percent was paid by the board per employee, although it decreased to 26.3 percent this year.
“To every one percent increase, it’s about $335,000 per year in additional money,” he said. “If you go from 26.3 percent to 29.3 percent, you’re going to kick in another $1 million on top of the $1 million Ms. Odom’s already said.”

He says in order to fix the issue, the board will have to consider further consolidation, adding it would not touch the current consolidation of J.E. Harper Elementary students to J.A. Phillips Middle School, and moving the sixth graders to Webster Junior High School.

He offered other recommendations, including compressing the salary schedule and incrementally unfreezing wages, and possibly reducing the number of board members.

“We’ve got some soul-searching to do,” he said. “I don’t want to close these schools any more than anybody else. If we’re going to save this district, we’re going to have to do something.”

Odom says these options will need to come to a vote before the school board before the May meeting so she can begin planning for the next fiscal year’s budget. A special meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 18, at Central Office, located at 1442 Sheppard Street.

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