The Los Banos Unified School District recently gave its top official a raise as a new state funding formula is poised to put schools on their best footing financially since 2007.
Earlier this month, the district’s board of trustees voted 5-2 to increase Superintendent Steve Tietjen’s salary by 10 percent by 2015. Tietjen, who previously made $162,012 annually, was granted a series of raises putting his pay at $175,215 this year and $178,720 next year.
The salary hike comes less than a month after the district negotiated new contracts with its teachers and classified unions that also included raises.
“It’s been in our minds that when the teachers and classified agreements were done, we would give him his raise,” said school board Trustee Chase Hurley.
Hurley said the superintendent is on a four-year contract, and there was a handshake agreement that he would be given raises if he performed to the board’s satisfaction. The board attempted to give Tietjen a raise in 2011. However, because education cuts by the state led to furlough days and wage freezes for district staff, Los Banos Unified employees protested the superintendent’s proposed raise. The offer for a pay increase was eventually rescinded by the board as Tietjen asked that he not receive an increase.
Last year, California implemented the Local Control Funding Formula, which in part provides more money to districts with a disproportionate number of students who receive free lunch or are learning English as a second language. The formula has resulted in an extra $4 million for the district so far and has a goal of returning school funding to 2007 levels, before state cuts were implemented due to California’s budget deficit.
Trustees Tommy Jones and Carole Duffy voted against Tietjen’s salary increase. Jones said he believes Tietjen deserves a raise, but he does not like the severance package in his contract.
“If the board fires him, we have to pay him for 15 months. That’s $200,000 of the taxpayers’ money,” Jones said. “I don’t think that is right.”
Hurley said the common practice in the superintendent contracts the board reviewed ranged from a year to 18 months of severance pay. He said he understands Jones’ position but he does not have a problem with the 15-month clause.
Duffy did not return phone calls requesting comment.