Fort Smith Public School superintendent contract renewed with no raise

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 750 views 

The Fort Smith Public School’s Board of Education on Tuesday (April 16) continued the process of not increasing salaries by extending the superintendent’s contract for another year but not increasing the base salary rate.

Superintendent Dr. Terry Morawski’s contract will extend his employment with the school district for 12 months, taking it through June 30, 2027. There was no change to his base salary from the 2023-24 contract year. His salary is $253,838.98.

Morawski’s contract also states that the district shall provide a vehicle for his business and personal use and shall assume all expenses related to use of the vehicle, including insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc., and will provide Morawski with a cell phone and phone service. It also states that during the term of the contract, the district will make the superintendent’s scheduled graduate student debt payments in an amount grossed up to account for the associated tax, at a rate of 1.5 times the payment.

Morawski’s contract stipulates that “in any year in which the Superintendent receives a composite performance review score greater than 3.0 on a 5.0 scale, as measured by the
Superintendent’s Performance Goals, the Board may, but is not required to, increase the Superintendent’s annual compensation or pay an annual bonus or both. In no event shall
the Superintendent be paid less than the salary set forth pursuant to Section 3.1 of this
Amended Contract except by mutual agreement of the two parties.”

The school board did not disclose Morawski’s composite performance review score following his evaluation Tuesday, but did state there would be no change to his base salary. The new contract is not yet finalized or signed and has not been made public yet.

School Board President Dalton Person said the lack of raise to Morawski’s base pay was not based on his performance review. However, in light of the funding forecast for the school district, the board decided that a raise to his base salary would not be feasible, Person said, noting that Morawski was supportive of that decision.

The school board approved salary schedules for both classified and certified personnel March 11 that also did not increase salaries for the 2024-25 school year other than what occurs in step increase. Charles Warren, FSPS chief financial officer, told the board at the February meeting that because of district finances, salaries need to stay the same for the coming school year with the only pay raises to come from steps up in the pay schedules.

Warren said that though FSPS millage will stay the same for future years and the district has a 3.8% growth in assessment for the coming school year, other funding is not as certain.
State foundation funding also increases for the coming school year at 2.01%, but that is down from the 2.77% increase last year.

The district is also losing students. The student count for this year, which is used to compute funding from the state, is expected to be down about 239 students, adding to a trend of negative numbers in student count over the last few years, Warren said.

The assessment growth will bring in about $2.65 million in new revenue for the district for the next school year. However, the increase in foundation funding for next school year is not big enough to be offset by the decline in student enrollment. The district is looking at a decrease in state funding of $800,000. This leaves a net increase of $1.85 million in new funds for the 2024-25 school year, Warren said.

The district also will lose $2.5 million in expiring Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds because ESSER funds will end at the end of the school year. Though the district earmarked much of that federal funding, which came from COVID-19 federal relief packages, for indoor air quality as well as expansion of some of schools, it also used funds for salary and benefits for some janitorial staff as well as some classroom staff, Warren said.

Changes to the salary schedules passed in 2023 included a starting base salary for first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree at $50,200 and increased the base pay by $2,000. It also added steps 23-25 to the classified and certified salary schedules and added a base increase of about $1,000 to the salary schedules for all steps up to step 25 for all classified employees.