EPISD compensation plan could mean $29 million budget shortfall down the road


The El Paso Independent School District Board is set to vote on raising teachers’ salaries by 5% — a salary increase that comes with dire possibilities, namely a projected budget shortfall of $29 million and no raise employee for the next two years.

The board is expected to consider adopting the operating budget for the 2022-23 school year on June 23. The meeting was pushed back two weeks to give administrators more time to digest the financial ramifications and learn how the district plans to increase revenue to offset projected shortfalls.

Under the proposed tiered pay plan, teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and hourly staff would get a 5% raise; campus administrators and professional staff would see a 4%; and central office management would receive 3%. The raises would be from the midpoint, which is the midpoint of their pay scale.

Entry-level teacher salaries would rise to $56,550, up from the current starting salary of $53,125.

All employees would additionally receive a $1,000 stipend, along with a second stipend equal to 4% of their salary (or 1% for employees at the director level or above). These one-time benefits would be paid for with federal coronavirus relief money.

The proposed 5% increase would be the biggest pay increase for teachers at the Episd since 2019, when the Texas Legislature pumped more money into districts to boost educator salaries. But that would still put EpiSD behind neighboring districts, which it has long trailed on pay, and with which it competes for teachers.

The independent school district boards of Socorro and Ysleta are expected to consider median wage increases of 5% and 2.5%, respectively, next week. The Canutillo Independent School District increased employee pay by 3% last month.

Reduce expenses, increase income ‘doable’

EpiSD’s financial challenges stem from declining state revenues due to declining enrollment. Texas largely funds districts based on the average daily number of students in attendance.

EpiSD has lost more than 12,000 students over the past decade, costing the district an estimated $100 million in state revenue, according to information Chief Financial Officer Martha Aguirre shared with administrators during a budget workshop on 5 April. For the 2022-2023 school year, the Episd plans to enroll 1,900 fewer students, a loss of approximately $8 million in public funds.

As a result, EpiSD must “readjust our budget to our district’s revenues” by reducing expenses, Aguirre told administrators during the June 13 budget workshop.

If no changes are made and enrollment continues to decline, the PISD projects a budget shortfall of nearly $4 million for the 2023-24 school year and a shortfall of $29 million for 2024-25. Both of these financial assumptions are based on not increasing employee salaries during this period.

Superintendent Diana Sayavedra, who is going through her first budget cycle at PISD, told trustees that cutting spending and raising revenue to fill those gaps is “absolutely doable” through a range of measures, including:

  • Sell ​​surplus properties, including closed schools. The district has 33 surplus properties and aims to sell four of them by May 2023, which could bring in around $10 million.
  • Do not hire from central office vacancies.
  • Increase the average daily attendance rate.
  • Improve student reporting for federal aid programs.
  • Redesign bilingual programming to adjust staff and classroom size.

“Our district has been somewhat complacent in terms of revenue-generating systems that will benefit children, especially average daily attendance,” Sayavedra said.

Raising average daily attendance from its longstanding rate of 90% to 94%, she said, would generate $14 million a year in public funds.

“It’s halfway through the deficit and it’s something we should be doing because it’s the number one predictor of student achievement,” Sayavedra said.

A classroom at Don Haskins PK-8 School on the first day of the 2021-2022 school year. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Sayavedra also said she assembled a team to design an enrollment stabilization strategy, noting that she plans to “recapture” at least 500 students who left the district.

School boards must pass a balanced budget before the start of the new fiscal year, which for the PISD begins July 1. The proposed $528 million budget that trustees must pass on June 23 requires drawing from its general fund, or savings account, to cover $4.1 million. in expenses.

Unions want wages equal to other districts

The leaders of the two unions of employees of the Episd had urged the administration to design a remuneration plan with higher salary increases. The El Paso chapter of the American Federation of Teachers had pushed for nearly 12% while the El Paso Teachers Association called for 7%.

While not entirely happy with the recommended 5% raise for teachers, El Paso AFT President Ross Moore said he was pleased to see Sayavedra’s openness and transparency during district financial review.

“If they can find cost savings and efficiencies and streamline things and not leave money on the table, that’s a fundamental shift in the way EpiSD does business,” Moore said. .

Moore thinks the PISD can be “successful” and potentially catch up with the pay rates of other districts in the region, as long as Sayavedra has the support of the board, central office administrators and employees.

“I think they will do what they have to do, because the competition (for teachers) is very strong,” EPTA President Norma De La Rosa said of whether the district can generate additional income required for annual employee increases.

If the district is to dip into its general fund to support higher increases, it should, she said, noting that the PISD has more than the 60-day minimum of operating expenses in its fund.

Aguirre, in an interview Thursday with El Paso Matters, noted that the Episd anticipates it will be able to address projected shortfalls and offer a new employee compensation program for the year 2023-24 and beyond. of the.

“With the leadership and vision of our superintendent, I think as an administration we are committed to making our human capital a compensation priority,” she said.


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