The Stephenville ISD tied up loose ends related to the 2010-11 fiscal year Monday and approved the tax rate, budget and other financial issues related to the current school year.

While the school district's three-part budget - general operating, debt service and child nutrition - was approved by majority vote, two board members voted against it.

Board members Sherrie Evans and Gary Sult expressed several concerns regarding SISD's salary schedule relating to teachers, speech pathologists, librarians, and school nurses, and a two percent across-the-board pay increase for other employees.

Both board members voted in favor of the salary schedule, but opted to oppose the budget.

Currently, the SISD salary schedule offers professional employees a base pay that is $6,400-$6,500 over the state mandated minimum with newcomers to the district signing on for $33,554-$35,154, depending upon their degree level.

For each year of service, a slight increase is rewarded to employees, but Evans, who spent years working as a SISD instructor, questioned why the increase was greater for those with shorter employment histories and less for those with established tenure.

For example, when a newcomer gains one-three years of experience, they are given an almost $600 pay increase annually while those with 22-26 years of service are given $300. The average of all step increases is roughly two percent, according to SISD Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd.

Sult opposed the entitlement increases saying performance and proven success, not the willingness to stay with the district for another year, should constitute a pay raise. He said in adhering to the schedule, the district is saying that all professional employees are equal when, "in reality, some work harder than others."

"I am looking at this from a business perspective," Sult said. "We are in the business of educating kids."

Also relating to the pay schedule, the board approved adding three new steps to the pay scale, offering annual increases for professional employees with 22-25 years of service. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Debbie Hummel said extending the schedule added $22,712 in personnel pay to the 2011-12 budget.

Meanwhile, Evans said it is unfair to give all non-step employees - aides, bus drivers, maintenance workers, cafeteria staffers and administrators - a two percent across-the-board increase due to the fact that the pay grades vary so greatly. She said the current system does not reward lower paid employees to the same degree as administrators, due to salary differences. Non of the off-scale employees - about 40 percent of district personnel - received a pay raise in 2010-11, Floyd said Tuesday.

Evans also said annual increases for Floyd should be considered separately from other non-step employees.

Despite several budgeting workshops, board member Todd McEvoy said the seven-member board was unable to reach a consensus on pay issues. He said with the new school year in session and the end of the fiscal year days away, finances needed to be approved. But McEvoy said the issues needed to be resolved during the current year and prior to next budget season.

Following the split vote - 4:2 with board member Jason Westbrook absent - that approved the budget, the board voted to approve a slight tax increase to fund district debt. In all, the total SISD tax rate for 2011 is $1.17 per $100 in value, up from $1.147 in 2010. The tax rate increase did not require voter approval since it was when the debt was acquired following a bond election. The board unanimously supported the tax increase.