Trustees of Northside Independent School District, San Antonio’s largest, approved a compensation plan Wednesday that would give a 4 percent raise to counselors, librarians, nurses, and teachers with less than five years in the classroom and a 4.75 percent raise to teachers with six or more years experience, using new state money from House Bill 3 to fund the increases.

House Bill 3, the omnibus school finance bill, requires districts to use 30 percent of their new state funds to increase compensation for district staff, giving special increases to teachers who have been in the classroom for more than five years. Northside ISD was slated to receive roughly $42 million in new revenue as a result of the legislation.

“I feel like we’ve made a recommendation that tries to balance two competing forces: what can we do for our employees to reward professionals, to reward their competence in the work that they do, and at the same time develop a budget that is sustainable long-term,” Superintendent Brian Woods said. “There are some uncertainties to do with House Bill 3. … Sustainability is something that is really important to be considered here.”

Trustees unanimously approved a recommendation to increase the starting teacher salary by $1,965 to $55,445 and increase the salary schedule by $2,300, equating to a 4 percent general increase. Teachers in the classroom with more than five years experience will receive an increase of $2,800, which equates to a general increase of 4.75 percent, said David Rastellini, the district’s deputy superintendent for business and finance.

Most of the remaining employees who are not teachers, librarians, counselors, or nurses are paid on a midpoint salary schedule, meaning the positions fall into a salary range. The district increased the midpoint in each category and awarded a 3 percent midpoint increase, bumping everyone’s pay.

In the past five years, Northside ISD trustees have approved a 2.4 percent average increase annually for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses, according to data presented by Rastellini.

The compensation increases will cost Northside roughly $33.8 million, he said.

Northside American Federation of Teachers President Wanda Longoria told the Rivard Report before Wednesday night’s meeting that teachers were hoping to see a 3.5 percent increase for beginning educators and a higher percentage increase for those with five or more years in the classroom.

The teacher’s union wanted to see support personnel, including bus drivers and custodians, receive a 4.5 percent increase or higher.

“We understand that [the district] is fiscally very conservative, and our district has always done a good job of maintaining programs and making sure that fiscally we are in good shape, and we appreciate that greatly,” Longoria said. “However, [the new state money] was infused specifically for teacher raises. Teachers advocated for that, and we showed up in force at the capitol.”

Elsewhere in Bexar County, districts have awarded raises around the 3 percent mark, with Harlandale ISD awarding the highest raises of 4 and 6 percent. Before adopting budgets or compensation plans, district leaders have cautioned staff and trustees to be conservative in budgeting, warning that additional state money may not always be available.

“While we understand that [the district wants] to be fiscally responsible and careful, we also believe that there is a lot of room there,” Longoria said. “We didn’t come in asking for 7 percent, yet we know districts have given that.”

Several teachers, speaking after the district presented the proposed raises, seemed happy with the proposal.

Tracy Jordan, a high school teacher at John Jay High School, told trustees that his planned speech to request more money was moot because he was pleased with the proposal.

“I want to give my gratitude to the board,” Jordan said.

Northside ISD’s fiscal year begins on Sept. 1 and trustees must still approve a budget incorporating the newly approved compensation plan by Aug. 31. The district plans to vote on a proposed budget on Aug. 27.

Northside ISD will be one of the area’s last districts to approve its budget, as several districts including San Antonio, North East, Harlandale, Judson, and Edgewood ISDs have already done so for a July 1 financial start date.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.