Christmas came a little early this year for Mustang teachers and staff.
At their recent meeting, the school board of education approved approximately $1.286 million for full-step increases and one-time stipends for eligible employees.
School spokesperson Shannon Rigsby said the funds will come from the operational fund, “thanks to the success of the strategic financial efficiency plan.”
“We will reach our financial goals a little more slowly because of the stipend, but we are still on track,” she said.”
The past summer the district decided in contract negotiations to freeze salaries while waiting on “a better idea of our financial picture down the road,” Rigsby said.
“More than $4 million had been cut from the budget during that time as we prepared for cuts from the state. Many positions have not been filled. Site budgets were eliminated. Every department, school and program was evaluated and budgets were cut.”
Rigsby especially noted the district did not cut any programs in its entirety as a result of the state’s budget crisis.
She explained the district decided in the summer to take a look at step increases again in December to “see what was possible.”
“Thankfully, the efficiency plan has been very successful and we were able to give employees the step raise they deserved,” Rigsby said.
In total, the district is shelling out some $800,000 for step increases and matching fixed costs, then another $460,000 for the one-time stipends.
This is for 1,200 eligible employees which breaks down to 650 certified teachers, 480 support and 70 administrators.
Non-eligible employees for the bump in pay include contractors, vendors and consultants.
Rigsby estimated the average stipend for employees will be approximately $365 before taxes.
School district employees last received a full-step pay increase in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but the last time they received a one-time stipend was around 2005 when Karl Springer was superintendent, Rigsby said.
“Everyone has made a difference in the success of the strategic financial efficiency plan from support staff to teachers to administrators. The Board of Education told Dr. McDaniel and other administrators to sharpen their pencils and see what could be done, particularly after the defeat of State Question 779.
“The stipend is at its most basic level, a ‘thank you.’ It’s been a difficult few years financially with our teachers and schools doing more with less. We also cannot mention this stipend without thanking our staff, our PTAs, our parents, local churches, businesses and the community for what they’ve done for our schools. They have been instrumental in the district’s success.”