Board Members Will Wait and See on Teacher Raises
Board Members Will Wait and See on Teacher Raises
Final decision may come in July
Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths gives WFISD board members an update on the construction progress of the Career Education Center in a June 13 noon special session.
WFISD board members took a wait-and-see posture toward the administration’s proposal for teacher salary increases for the 2017-2018 school year, preferring to hold tight until the Texas Legislature weighed in.
The Texas Legislature has proposed raising teacher pay by $1,000 per teacher – an unfunded mandate that would be passed on to individual school districts to carry out -- and is expected to address the issue in a July special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 6.
Meanwhile, WFISD has proposed increasing the teachers, librarians and nurses salary schedule by $200, ultimately giving them their step increase plus $200. All other employees would receive a 1 percent increase based on their administrative salary schedule midpoints.
The administration had asked board members to approve the recommendation at the noon special session June 13 to facilitate hiring decisions, but board members decided to take no action on the measure now and consider it again in July.
“By July, we’ll have more clarity,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.
However, the District’s proposal will be used for planning purposes as the budget process proceeds.
The decision was part of a lengthy noon special session June 13 that lasted two-and-a-half hours.
Teacher salaries and stipends were a key part of the current budget discussion, following on the heels of two past years of significant pay raises. In 2015-2016, WFISD raised its starting teacher pay from $39,000 to $41,500 and, in 2016-2017, raised it again from $41,500 to $43,000. For the 2017-2018 school year, Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod proposed raising new teacher pay from $43,000 to $43,200.
District pay increase plan
The District’s proposed pay hike for teachers – the $200 step increase on the current salary schedule -- and a 1 percent pay raise for all other eligible employees -- will cost $1,832,164. The pay hike will result in a $574,061 budget deficit.
An anticipated health care premium hike that the District had planned to cover for its staff didn’t fully materialize. If it had, the District would have found itself with a $2.3 million deficit.
The TRS ActiveCare 1-HD Healthcare plan only increased from $341 to $351 instead of the projected increase to $489 per month per employee. TRS did increase the District’s contribution amount from .55 percent to .75 percent.
However, at this stage of budgeting, administrators stressed that other cuts can – and will -- be made throughout the budget to erase a deficit. Board members stressed their preference for a balanced budget.
Budget reductions districtwide
Where possible, all 2017-2018 budgets on campuses and in administrative departments were reduced by 15 percent, a move that saved $300,000 at the campuses and $700,000 in departmental expenses for a $1 million total budget cut, said Mr. Sherrod. It was impossible to cut some departmental budgets, such as the technology budget, which will rise by $336,000, or custodial and maintenance expenses, since campus electrical and landscaping costs are set and cannot be reduced.
The opening of the Career Education Center in August will also raise custodial expenses by $204,180, grounds expenses by $10,000 and utility costs by $70,000, according to Mr. Sherrod.
New budget costs this year include covering a pre-school grant that, after two years, has expired. In the 2017-2018 budget, the District will also pay its first tax maintenance note.
The budget does not include any of the requests by WFISD employees made directly to board members in several rounds of pre-budget meetings. Board member Bob Payton asked Mr. Sherrod when board members might weigh in on their thoughts about such needs.
Board member Elizabeth Yeager asked Mr. Sherrod how the $1 million in budget cuts will affect students.
“I did not get the concern from the campuses,” said Mr. Sherrod, citing that 44 percent of campus budgets still had not been spent by April. His department fielded more requisitions in April than in any other month this year, he said. The cuts were not based on what had or hadn’t been spent, he said.
With budgets reduced somewhat this year, campuses may need to come to board members for funding help if they face unexpected emergencies, said Mr. Sherrod.
Stipend increases approved
In a 6-0 vote, board members accepted a roster of changes to extra duty stipends for the 2017-2018 school year. The cost of stipends is $288,205 compared to last year’s $269,363, an increase of about $19,000.
Changes to stipends included athletic stipends to middle school teachers that were adjusted to be more consistent and equitable, increased stipends for the assistant band director and assistant choir director at middle schools, and stipends for new drama coaches at the middle schools. Extra duty stipends range from $500 (for the middle school Crime Stoppers program) to $9,700 (for high school head athletic trainer).
Barwise weight room conundrum
Mr. Sherrod asked board members to consider moving ahead with plans to construct a Barwise Middle School weight room using Cunningham Clark Construction, who priced the project at $205,900. Two other companies bid $208,526 (Wendeborn Construction) and $217,377 (Santa Rosa Construction).
The same project drew an estimate three years ago of $130,000. “All bids came in much higher than expected,” said Mr. Sherrod. Construction workers have plenty of jobs now and “are not hungry,” he said.
The significant difference between the original estimate and current bids concerned board members.
Board member Elizabeth Yeager asked if there were any more urgent need than a weight room for the $205,900 and, if so, why was the money being put toward a weight room?
“Technically, yes,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “But Barwise was promised a weight room” when it merged with Zundy. During his three years in Wichita Falls, parents have constantly asked him why Kirby and McNiel Middle Schools have weight rooms but Barwise does not.
“I’m having a hard time to get to this number,” said Board President Dale Harvey of the $205,900 proposed cost.
“I sure can’t get there at $205,900,” said board member Bill Franklin. “Put it back in a portable. We need to have something to put those weights in. We need to spend something.”
Two portables will cost $100,000, said Mr. Kuhrt.
“This was a difficult one,” agreed Mr. Sherrod.
“This is water under the bridge, but it should have been included in the bond,” said Ms. Yeager.
“It was,” said Mr. Kuhrt. It was later removed to bring down the cost of the bond, he said.
Mr. Franklin asked maintenance director Brady Woolsey if two portables could be installed and ready to go when school starts Aug. 17. “Probably,” said Mr. Woolsey. He would need to research getting electrical power to the building, which would be the main challenge, he said.
Synthetic turf cleaning and G-Max testing costs
Now that the District has several synthetic turf fields (baseball, softball, and Memorial Stadium), the time has come for their recommended cleaning and follow-up G-Max testing to monitor the thoroughness of the cleaning.
In a 6-0 vote, board members approved awarding the three-year cleaning bid to Hellas Construction for $17,500 and a bid for G-Max Testing to Champion Track and Turf Repair for $3,000. Hellas Construction is not allowed to do the G-Max Testing; if they do, it will void the field warranty.
“I want to take care of the field with the products the company recommends,” said Athletic Director Scot Hafley.
A G-Max test was performed only at Memorial Stadium in July 2016. It tested “just fine,” said Mr. Hafley. This July, all the District’s fields will be tested.
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the April budget amendments to the 2016-2017 budget that were recommended by Mr. Sherrod.
He listed 24 inter-function budget transfers for as little as $10 in extra duty pay for the Special Education fund to $18,000 for Secondary Education TAME stipends and $20,000 in Special Education Medicaid/SHARS funds.
In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the low bid to purchase Dell ChromeBooks, HP Chromeboxes, and Dell 3050 Desktop computers from Delcom Group, then to also purchase Google Chrome OS Management Console licenses from Troxell.
The District will purchase 1,000 of the Dell ChromeBook 11 for $255 apiece at a cost of $255,000. It will purchase 70 Chromeboxes at $160 apiece for $11,200 and 250 Dell 3050 Desktop computers at $518.75 apiece for a total cost of $129,687.50.
The Google Chrome licenses cost $23.71 apiece. The District will purchase 1,150 of them for $23,710.
Costs, which have been budgeted, are lower than last year’s purchase prices. The technology is being purchased for incoming 6th graders from the $450,000 budget, said Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent.
Board members studied the District’s recommendation to award RFP #17-40 for Basic Life and AD&D Insurance to Lincoln National. Though it was not the low bidder, Lincoln National offered District employee greater value, said Mr. Sherrod.
Also, low-bidder Dearborn National has a record of legal issues and demonstrated multiple inconsistencies in presentations and response details.
The Life Insurance is $0.005 less than last year and will be funded by the District as an employer provided benefit. WFISD’s current provider for basic life, AD&D and voluntary term life insurance policies, Sun Life Insurance, did not submit a bid.
A decision was not made on this bid.
Skyward Software License Agreement
Board members also discussed – without taking a vote – accepting the new Software License Agreement for Skyward, which would begin Sept. 1.
Until now, a special arrangement with the state has allowed WFISD to use Skyward at a discounted rate – but the arrangement ends Aug. 31.
The cost per fiscal year is expected to be $93,050.80. Its Student Management Suite includes Student Management, Curriculum Mapping, Educator Gradebook, Family Access, Graduation Requirements, Health Records, Lesson Plan, Response to Intervention, and Test Score Import.
Board members asked for more information on the contract, including comparison with last year’s cost.
Test and Balance Professional Services at CEC
In a 5-0 vote, board members awarded Test and Balance Professional Services to Steward Environmental. The service will be performed at the new Career Education Center. A team will balance the central heat and air systems once they are installed. The team makes sure there are no hot or cold spots and searches for leaks that the contractor must repair.
The price for this service is $79,800.
Director of Human Resources Cyndy Kohl reported one professional retirement and 13 professional resignations. Also, her report showed that four support staff members retired, and 40 Child Nutrition employees reported their last day of work as May 26. The large number of Child Nutrition employee resignations is due to employees taking advantage of the District’s option to work with the new outsourcing company, Chartwells.
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the report, which included the proposed applicant pool of 30 new hires and eight contract changes.
Two policies were revised to match the language of state policies.
As a result of the Texas Association of School Board’s Annual Review of Key Policies, DCB (Local) was revised to align with Chapter 21 of the Education Code.
Another policy, DEC (Local) was revised to clarify current expectations regarding the order in which an employee takes his or her state and local leave.
CEC construction update
The Career Education Center is on track to be finished in time to open for classes when school starts Aug. 17.
With three months left to go, construction workers are moving fast and making excellent progress, said Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent.
Architect Gary Baker agreed that progress was good, barring any unexpected delays.
This week, LED lights are on in the building, terrazzo flooring is being installed, and cosmetology equipment is expected to be delivered this week. Sinks have been installed and cosmetology cabinetry is in. Painting, tiling and wiring is underway on the building’s industrial side.
Flooring has been installed throughout the building’s classrooms. Science rooms have their flooring in and furniture laid out. Cabinetry has been placed in office spaces. Wood floors are also being installed. A large media screen has been installed and will soon be hooked up.
Outdoors, concrete is being poured for curbing on Brewster Street, and the area is being readied for asphalt paving.
“They felt really good about how things are moving,” said Mr. Griffiths of his visits with the construction team this week. “They felt very confident.”
Mr. Baker reminded board members that “anything can happen,” even at this late stage. However, he said, “They’re doing everything they possibly can,” to make progress.
“Are we incurring extra cost for extra work?” asked Mr. Franklin.
“I’m sure we’ll see a bill eventually,” said Mr. Griffiths. However, any overages are still within the budget, he said.