Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan watched Thursday night as the majority of the school board, helped in part by trustee Anne Sung’s mathematics skills, rejected her refusal to redo her 2019-20 budget and passed one with significant amendments that reset priorities on pay and funding.
In the end, by a vote of 5-1 they approved a budget raising the lowest level workers’ pay to $14 an hour – not the $15 an hour some trustees wanted but still more than the current $12 an hour Lathan said the district could afford. Lathan's budget was initially introduced on June 18 and rejected by the board on a 6-3 vote.
The interim superintendent had called a press conference on Wednesday where she announced she was standing firm on her budget proposals, warning that any departure from what her administration had set out would result in layoffs.
The majority of trustees then set out to work around the line in the sand she had drawn, counting on additional funds the district is receiving as a result of the passage of House Bill 3 by the Texas Legislature.
Their amendments included:
— $17 million in department cuts but calling on the school district's fund balance to cover any need for staff reductions.
— The raise in pay for support staff in positions such as custodians and maintenance positions.
— No raises for staff members already earning more than $75,000 a year. As a solace each of those folks will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000 and two extra vacation days.
— An increase in the funding weighting formula for English Language Learner students as proposed by trustee Sergio Lira.
Declaring that she doesn’t like amendments to proposed budgets and don’t think trustees should be making them, Board President Diana Davila went on to say that this had happened because the administration refused to listen to its board.
Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Jolanda Jones and Wanda Adams were not present for the budget vote which had to be scheduled to make the state-mandated deadline of June 30 to have an approved budget. Trustee Holly Marie Vilaseca was Skyped in. Trustees physically present for the meeting that lasted about six hours (after an earlier workshop in the afternoon) included Lira, Davila, Sung, Sue Deigaard and Elizabeth Santos.
Earlier in the public meeting, Adams echoing Lathan's earlier comments, warned that increasing the pay rate for lowest level employees would result in some of them losing their jobs. At 7:51, the board went into executive closed session following this to seek legal guidance and when they came out, Santos offered the amendment that would make sure no staff members lost their jobs as a result of raise in pay.
The board also approved an amendment from Sung that set aside $175,00 to undertake a compensation study of all pay groups to ensure competitive pay for HISD employees. Adams abstained from that vote and Deigaard voted against it with the other five trustees present voting for it.
Go to houstonisd.org and click on board meeting videos to see the meeting.