The Jefferson Parish School Board will consider a $457.5 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year next month, including plans to give raises to school workers that would put them at or above the pay levels they would have received had the district not gone through a three-year salary freeze.
The raises — largely funded by increases in local revenue and reductions in debt payments and other costs — are one of the most significant changes from this year’s budget, said school system Chief Financial Officer Bob Fulton.
“The emphasis this year was to ensure we had sufficient funds to cover not only what we’re calling the ‘compression increases’ — catch-up salary increases for those people who suffered under our three years of salary freezes — but also to provide a step increase for almost all of our employees,” Fulton said.
The School Board approved the planned raises for teachers and other school employees at a meeting last month.
Essentially, the proposal would make up for three years of missed “step increases,” which reward teachers for years of experience but are capped after a certain number of years. In addition, all employees — including those who have already reached the cap — will be eligible for an additional step increase as long as they are not rated as “ineffective” in their evaluations.
For teachers, that step increase means a raise of up to $2,400 a year.
Roughly $343.7 million, or 75 percent, of the budget, will go toward salaries and benefits for the school district’s 6,000 employees. That’s about $12.1 million more than last year, including increases because of the raises and a 5 percent increase in health insurance premiums paid by the district.
Money for the raises comes largely from an increase in sales tax and property tax revenue, due to higher property values and more spending in the parish, Fulton said.
“This budget reflects the district’s continued commitment to directing more resources into the classroom and stabilizing spending so that we can present a balanced budget to the board,” Superintendent James Meza said in a statement. “Thanks to an increase in projected revenue and some decreases in expenses, we were able to budget for across-the-board salary increases for our deserving employees while at the same time absorbing the rising costs of benefits.”
Officials with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but they were involved in the discussions that led to the plan for raises.