Killeen Independent School District teachers and other employees will see a 2 percent raise this fall, following the board of trustees’ approval of the increase Tuesday.

The board also approved the hiring of architects and engineers to start work on projects included in the voter-approved $426 million bond issue.

In other action, trustees approved a plan to repair the Harker Heights marching band practice area, which will be funded through the Capital Improvement Project budget at an estimated cost of $25,000.

Employee raises has been a subject of much discussion in recent weeks.

Superintendent John Craft proposed a budget plan that included the 2 percent, sweeping pay raise for KISD’s nearly 3,000 teachers and all employees. With the plan’s approval teachers will receive a pay raise of about $1,000 each.

The board approved the measure 6-1, with board member Carlyle Walton — who had argued for a 3 percent increase — voting against it.

Dozens of teachers and other staff members, who attended the meeting in red shirts, said the raise isn’t enough.

Members of the Killeen Educators Association filled the KISD boardroom as district officials weighed the raises, requesting a raise double what the school board approved.

A cross-section of KISD staff, including bus drivers, teacher aides and teachers, testified to the board on how their paychecks fail to make all ends meet. Employees who spoke also referenced a high turnover rate of 3.2 percent, which KISD officials later confirmed. Members of the association at Tuesday’s meeting said low pay and unfair treatment were to blame for the turnover.

Richard Beaule, president of the Killeen Educators Association, claimed that KISD has amassed excess revenues of over $20 million in the past years, an assertion that bewildered KISD officials.

“Are we going to pay our employees a livable wage, or are we going to stick with a script?” Beaule asked the board before it voted on the raise. “Tonight, we will find out, and we are watching.”

Chief Human Resource Officer Steve Cook compared KISD salaries to those of surrounding school districts.

On average, $52,464 is the average teacher salary in KISD, according to Cook. That figure, per Cook, is higher than several surrounding school districts to which Cook compared KISD, including Copperas Cove, Belton and Georgetown ISDs, among others.

Cook said the retirement of many employees contributed to KISD’s turnover rate of 3.2 percent. The coming and going of military-affiliated employees also contribute to the turnover, he said.

“I think what you heard earlier was misrepresented,” Cook said in reference to comments made by members of the Killeen Educators Association. “It’s a challenge, but it’s also a blessing. We get folks from all over the world with different perspectives.”

Walton pressed trustees to consider the cost of losing employees who leave due to low pay.

“Consider the intangible cost of turnover,” Walton said. “I understand the importance of maintaining brick and mortar, but it’s those bus drivers who bring those children to the bricks and mortar.

The 2018-2019 compensation plan Craft presented included a 1 percent pay grade range adjustment. With this plan, the starting teacher salary will increase to $47,000.

The estimated cost of the proposal is $5 million. The raise will be funded in the fiscal year 2019 draft budget to be formally presented to the board in August.

In order to achieve a 2 percent pay raise with zero deficit, the district will draw down the general fund for capital improvement projects, which would be reduced from 1.25 percent to 1 percent.

Under the proposed plan, transfers to capital improvement projects would decrease from $4.6 million to $3.8 million.

A potential budget amendment to raise the transfer rate back to 1.25 percent could come around the January time frame, Craft said.

BOND MONEY

Also Tuesday, board members approved the hiring of architects and engineers to start work on the voter-approved bond program. Voters in May endorsed two school construction bonds for a total of $426 million to build and renovate schools in KISD.

Proposition A of the two-part bond, for $235 million, will pay for construction of a new high school and elementary school and renovations to existing schools for ADA compliance and security upgrades. Proposition B, for $191 million, will pay for consolidation of some schools, and renovation of Killeen High School and other schools.

An amount of $360 million out of the $426 million bond program was approved Tuesday night. Projects still pending approval include work on Pershing Park and Clifton Elementary.

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