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20130628 LJISD-Natatorium-Entrance-ViewLA JOYA – La Joya Independent School District is discussing their budget for the 2013-14 school year. The proposed budget includes a $9.5 million natatorium and salary increases.

The natatorium has been a topic of discussion for over a year due to conflicts with their contract with the City of La Joya.

The natatorium would include three separate bodies of water with an eight-lane competition pool, a competition diving well with two one-meter diving boards, a location for a future three-meter diving platform and a shallow learn to swim pool. The natatorium would also have a spectator area for 500, a director’s office, coach’s offices, classroom, student locker/changing room, team storage areas, a weight room, training room, first aid room, public restrooms and associated building and pool mechanical rooms to support the facility. The proposed building would be 37,500 square feet, and the district is looking at bidding out the project in August 2014. Construction would take 12 to 14 months after school board approval and awarding of the bid.

Trustees Consider $8M in Pay Raises

Salary increase discussions include a proposed $2,000 increase for 2,053 teachers. The cost of raises for teachers alone is over $4 million. Other increases proposed are a 3.5 percent salary increase for 68 non-teaching business professionals and 354 non-teaching instructional professionals. An hourly increase of $1 is proposed for 867 clerical/technical and 948 manual trades positions. The total of all pay increases would be over $8 million. Increases are being made per TASB recommendations, according to district officials. Also, per TASB recommendation, employees at or above the maximum salary will not receive a raise. The increases are based on a 207-day average, 8 hours a day and does not include benefits or new hires.

LJISD is still looking at starting pay for teachers with zero years of experience. Currently, the proposed budget includes a starting pay of $43,400.

Espie Ochoa, LJISD school board vice president, pointed out at the board meeting that a recent Progress Times article stated a neighboring district, Mission CISD, increased their starting pay for teachers to $44,000. The district’s starting pay needs to be looked at more closely to ensure they stay competitive with surrounding school districts, added Ochoa.

Other budget proposals include just over $1 million for additional positions, $1.26 million for an increase in employee benefits contribution and $1.5 million for a FEMA safe shelter. HVAC repairs for La Joya High School and Chavez Middle School, paving at Benavides Elementary and Richards Middle School and phase one of an instructional resources building at Nellie Schunior would cost an additional $3,725,000 million . Also included in the proposed budget are $680,000 of vehicles for the child nutrition services department and a $650,000 renovation of the cafeteria at La Joya High School.

The requests and special projects proposed in the budget total over $21.5 million. This amount does not include salary increases and new positions.

Dr. Alda T. Benavides, LJISD superintendent, said they are currently over in the fund balance by $4.3 million. Changes to the current proposed budget could include waiting on technology upgrades and phasing in the ninth grade initiative. The idea is to get that amount, the overage, to about $3 million and the special requests and projects down to $20.7 million, said Benavides.

Another budget work session will be held in mid to late July with the plan to approve the budget in August.

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