Education

Houston school employees could see more than 2 percent raise next year

Houston County students walk off a school bus along Highway 41. A centralized transportation facility is one of the final projects that will be completed using 2012-17 education special purpose local option sales tax dollars.
Houston County students walk off a school bus along Highway 41. A centralized transportation facility is one of the final projects that will be completed using 2012-17 education special purpose local option sales tax dollars. jvorhees@macon.com

Houston County school employees may be in for 2-percent raises on top of pay increases based on their years of service.

Under the preliminary 2017-18 budget, certified and classified employees who have been with the district for less than 21 years would receive salary “step increases” tied to their experience. They’ll also receive additional 2-percent cost-of-living raises, said Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent for finance and business operations.

“We really feel like that will position us better to recruit and retain the best teachers,” Superintendent Mark Scott said during a school board retreat and work session Monday. “Many of our teachers went a long time without pay increases. The cost of living has continued to increase.”

The recommended raises would increase the district’s starting salary, ensuring that the district remains competitive, he said. The district has also increased the pay rate for substitute teachers, Thublin said.

The budget proposal estimates $259 million in general fund expenditures and an ending fund balance of less than $29 million. It includes nearly $660,000 for 10 new certified positions, including regular classroom teachers and special education teachers; more than $3.7 million for an increase in the teacher retirement plan; and matching health insurance contributions of $99 for each participating classified employee.

In addition, the budget accounts for new textbooks, custodial equipment, replacement vehicles and Innovation Grants that focus on STEM education, according to the report. The final vote for the budget won’t come until June.

All revenues have been collected in the district’s 2012-17 education sales tax program, and just a few projects remain that will be funded through those dollars, Thublin said.

A centralized transportation facility beside Freedom Field at Houston County High School in Warner Robins will be finished by the end of the month. Plans call for parking and traffic-flow improvements to be made at Miller and Quail Run elementary schools this summer.

Lastly, the board is looking into building a tennis facility with 20 to 24 courts on property beside Freedom Field, although no firm plans have been made yet. The school system now has no place to host regional tennis tournaments, Thublin said. The district hopes to partner with the city of Warner Robins on the project.

Two of the first projects to be tackled under the 2017-22 ESPLOST will be the auditorium upgrade at Perry High School and the Northside High School renovation, which will connect two buildings on campus and add instructional units, a multipurpose area and theater space, Thublin said.

Both projects are set to begin this summer. Drainage and parking improvements will also be made at Perry High.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

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