The Fort Smith Board of Education looked at a resolution Monday night for the future approval of staff and faculty salary increases that are 5 percent or higher.
According to Act 1120 of 2013, the state legislature requires school districts to report the compensation increases and give a reason for the increase. They are also instructed to provide the information to an auditor. Fort Smith Superintendent Doug Brubaker assured the board the information is provided for the district’s annual audit review.
Brubaker said there are a variety of reasons for the salary increases for both certified and non-certified employees.
“Many of them were part-time employees and moved to full time,” Brubaker said. “Of course, when you move from part to full time, your salary essentially doubles, so you would appear on this list. Some advanced in the salary schedule based on their education and experience. Some got new jobs within the district with greater responsibility and higher pay. Departing employees received severance pay, as provided by policy, which sometimes put them into five percent category.”
Other increases came because of additional certifications, hourly staff who worked additional hours, salaried employees who picked up additional tasks — this could include after-school tutoring or morning student supervision.
Brubaker is among the list of district employees who received an increase from fiscal year 2016-17 to 2017-18.
“In terms of full disclosure, the first year I worked here in the district, I worked here from January to July, so I worked half of the year,” Brubaker said. “My salary, as reported on this report, doubled from one year to the next because I only worked half that first year.”
The district’s fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Brubaker began in January 2017, which was the beginning of FY 2016-17’s second half, and earned $96,600. He worked all of FY 2017-18 and earned a full year’s salary of $210,000. The increase is technically a 117 percent hike from FY 2016-17, despite his approved salary remaining the same, and must be reported as such to comply with state law.
Board member Talicia Richardson noted the percentage increases, similar to Brubaker's, may not actually reflect an accurate compensation.
“Some of these increases appear to be large regarding percentage, but when you actually look at some of our staff members, (and) not necessarily the certified, that’s higher,” Richardson said.
For example, two substitute teachers were hired as full-time certified staff and received salary increases of a little more than 9,000 percent. However, the pay they received as substitutes was roughly $500 in FY 2016-17 and they made a salary of about $40,000 in FY 2017-18.
Another example is of a substitute bus aide, a non-certified employee, was hired as a full-time aide. The report says there was a 19,881 percent compensation increase, which is true, but the aide went from $45 in payment in FY 2016-17 to earning almost $9,000 in FY 2017-18.
Executive Director of Communication Zena Featherston Marshall emphasized this is an action that must be taken every year and is not a completely new resolution.
The board moved the resolution to its agenda for the Oct. 22 regular meeting, where it will officially be approved or rejected.