Fort Smith School Board considers teacher salary bump for next school year

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 705 views 

The Fort Smith Public School (FSPS) Board eyed an increase to teacher salaries at Monday’s (April 17) committee meeting. A recommendation was presented to board members for an average annual increase of $833.98 for certified staff — a 1.53% upgrade from the 2016-2017 School Year.

If accepted, the move will increase base salaries $200 per year from $37,750 to $37,950. The range of increases for licensed and non-licensed staff in length of service increments would range from $240-$1,834 for the coming school year, or increases of 0.45%-3.73%.

To pay for the proposed increases, the district will need $715,000 for licensed staff and $275,000 for non-licensed. An additional $305,000 would cover the base salary increase, and all line items will be compensated through $1.475 million in new funds available through local and state revenues.

“I certainly am, and our whole community is, very committed to having very competitive salaries because we want to have the very best people in those classrooms to continue teaching our kids,” said FSPS Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker. “We want to make sure that salaries continue to increase over time while also being able to address some of our issues.”

Answering an observation from Board President Dr. Deanie Mehl that Fort Smith’s base salary is still “significantly lower than Northwest Arkansas,” Brubaker said that while the district wants to “attract people out of university or even in mid-career, to really get things pumped up with an increase that’s less incremental than what you see here and is more robust, it would require some additional resources.”

FSPS Director of Financial Services Charles Warren also noted the district makes higher insurance contributions per employee and offers “dental and vision benefits that are not primarily seen in Northwest Arkansas.”

“You have to look at the salary schedule throughout the steps,” Warren said. “We may actually beat them in years 10 through 15, especially when you look at take-home pay and benefits. So it may not look like we are as competitive as Northwest Arkansas in year one and year two, but throughout the salary schedule, you will find we are competitive and can keep our own even as we are not having comparable millage.”

To close, board member Talicia Richardson emphasized retention of talent, noting that “what may be beneficial to a single parent may not be as beneficial to a family of four where the spouse has all the benefits, so I think we should have some type of comparison that we could include in our recruiting and marketing information.”

Richardson said a comparison of such factors to other districts, such as those in Northwest Arkansas would be helpful in “showing that you are, in fact, competitive … or you might find that you’re not.” Either way, the district could benefit in knowing where it stands in comparison to other districts, Richardson indicated.

The district will take up the proposed salary schedule increases at its next regular board meeting on April 24 from Building B of the FSPS Service Center.

Also Monday, the Board approved a recommendation from Donna Turnipseed, the district’s director of child nutrition, to make the free breakfast meals program available to all students a permanent fixture. The increase in participation will increase cost to the district by $15,000 and will start in the 2017-2018 School Year.

The free breakfast program launched in 2014 and served 74,829 meals before taking a slight dip to 73,087 in 2015 prior to a large spike for the 2016-2017 School Year. Better marketing of the program will result in an estimated 83,774 meals served by the end of May, a year-to-year increase of 10,687.

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