Brownsville ISD to give all employees 2% pay raises

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The Brownsville Independent School District has begun writing next year’s budget to include 2% pay raises for all employees amid an ongoing effort to right-size the district and make good on its pledge to avoid layoffs.

BISD operates on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, meaning that it has until the end of the month to adopt the budget and employee compensation plan for the 2024-2025 school year.

It is always a touch-and-go process, but even more so this year because the state’s public school districts have yet to receive any new funding from the Texas Legislature due to an ongoing fight with Gov. Greg Abbott over school vouchers.

Additionally, BISD must use higher state-mandated property values rather than Cameron County Appraisal District values to calculate local spending.

BISD has about 38,000 students and 6,000 employees but is losing about 1,200 students every year to charter schools, district records show.

Superintendent Jesus H. Chavez reassured employees at the beginning of the budget process several months ago that everyone who has a job now will have one next year.

On Monday, BISD held the last of six budget committee workshops before the budget and employee compensation plan are presented for final approval to the Board of Trustees at its June 20 meeting.

The budget is expected to total $504.9 million, with a deficit of $23.6 million that will have to be made up from fund balance, Chief Financial Officer Alejandro Cespedes said.

The district has been working since the beginning of the budget process to find ways to reasonably cut expenses without compromising the services it provides to students.

Brownsville Independent School District bus driver Mary A. Hernandez prepares for her bus route Thursday afternoon, June 23, 2022, at BISD’s Bus Barn. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Among other cuts, BISD is consolidating six elementary schools into three in Southmost: Cromack and Casteneda, Del Castillo and Morningside and Garza and Southmost Elementary schools, at a savings of about $1 million per consolidation.

In addition, the Brownsville Academic Center at the Cummings CTE Center in the former Cummings Middle School is being closed.

Students at the sixth- through 12th-grade credit recovery school are being returned to their original middle and high school campuses at a savings of about $430,000 annually.

Parent liaison, librarian and library aide staffing is being consolidated throughout the district. Dyslexia aides are being reassigned, amid other consolidations throughout the district, from administrators on down.

“Just to clarify: no individual is going to lose their job,” Chavez said at Monday’s meeting.

Brownsville Independent School District Food and Nutrition Services employees Alma Martinez and Omar Figueroa prep cups of pico de gallo for the student’s lunch Wednesday morning, June 8, 2022, as part of BISD’s Free Summer Meal Program at Edward Manzano Jr. Middle School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“Yes they will have a different job, hopefully within that same pay grade, so we’re doing our very best to place everybody,” he said, adding that the district will carry some excess positions, which will dwindle over time as BISD right-sizes through attrition.

“We will carry some excess. Now, we will optimize and use excess positions in various parts of the district, but no, no employee is going to be let go,” he said.

Chavez said his administration would bring back information to the board “once decisions are made about where we can most efficiently use our personnel.”

Meanwhile, BISD’s personnel department continues to give employees options when they are reassigned.

“When we did the consolidating of all the schools, we went to each and every school” and asked employees who were being transferred for their options, “and we did our best to accommodate based on their options. They gave us three options. … We did that, and we will continue to do that,” Chief Human Resources Officer Linda Gallegos said.