Dave Rogers 

For the Record

 

Trustees for Orangefield and Little Cypress-Mauriceville voted for employee pay raises Monday night with the largest increases going to teachers.

That’s the way the state Legislature drew it up in May when state leaders approved to spend $11.6 billion on public education.

Of that amount, $6.5 million was in new education spending while $5.1 million goes to lowering property taxes.

School districts are given flexibility on exactly how to distribute the compensation. 

Orangefield ISD teachers and librarians, of whom there are about 125, will receive an average pay increase of 11%, Superintendent Stephen Patterson said.

The district’s non-teaching employees, another 125 or so, will receive an average pay increase of 9%, Patterson said.

“We dedicated $1.1 million to employee compensation,” he said. “Teachers are required by law to get the larger percentage.”

The school board at LCMCISD approved an average pay raise of 6.6% for teachers, counselors, nurses, non-administrators, according to Hollie Fregia, the district’s chief financial officer.

All other employees of LCMCISD will be receiving an average raise of 3%, she said.

While most area school districts operate with a fiscal year running from September 1 through Aug. 31, West Orange-Cove CISD is on a July 1-June 30 fiscal year.

That district has already approved and published its tax rate and budget for the next school year, doing so in June.

WOCCISD minimum starting salary for teachers was increased by $3,000 to $46,000 per year.

Minimum pay for teachers increased $3,500 and those with five years or more of experience received a $4,000 increase, according to Lorraine Shannon, district director of communications.

All other staff members received a 3% increase, Shannon said.

Because of the state’s infusion of $5.1 billion for property tax cuts, WOCCISD taxpayers received a 10-cent cut in their tax rate, from $1.42 per $100 value to $1.32 per $100 value.

However, the values in WOCCISD have gone up more than 10 percent, meaning taxes on the average home in the district will go up $49 this year.

The WOCCISD board budgeted for expenditures of $32.2 million for the 2019-20 school year.

According to the district’s tax notice, WOCCISD began July with fund balances of $10.5 million for maintenance and operations and $3.2 million for interest and sinking.

“The state made a commitment. They’ve mandated how the money will be spent and with that you have to have some comfort level,” Orangefield’s Patterson said Monday night.

“You hope that it makes the profession [education] appealing because the teacher shortage across the state is for real.”

Patterson said the state only required Orangefield to spend $700,000 on raises, “but the board committed to $1.1 million.

“The board put a priority on the district’s employees and I think it’ll be positively perceived by the staff. I applaud the board for making this decision.”
Richard Crump, architect for Claycomb & Associates, which is managing Orangefield’s rebuilding after Tropical Storm Harvey delivered an update on construction.

Some last-minute “punch list” items remain, Patterson said, but the superintendent said the buildings will be 99 percent complete when school opens Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Patterson talked about schedule and bus changes from previous years.

Pre-Kindergarten will now be full-day for eligible 4-year-olds. Fifth graders will be part of the elementary school beginning this year.

There are no changes in the start and end time of school days for elementary school kids, but older children will start a bit later.

While elementary school will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m., junior high days will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and high school class days are from 8:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.

The district will run split bus routes this year in the morning and afternoon. Students in Pre-K through 5th grade will ride the same bus.

Students in grades 6 through 12 will ride together on another bus. Students will not be allowed to ride a bus not aligned with their grade level transportation designation.

These changes are being made to improve traffic congestion, Patterson’s letter to parents said.