The chairman of the Senate’s education budget committee said Tuesday he does not expect lawmakers to give additional pay raises to teachers in the 2015 fiscal year.
Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee chairman, said at a press conference at the State House that he believed the state needed to prioritize repayments to the Rainy Day Account, emptied in 2009 to offset the costs of proration that year. The state still has to pay $163 million to the fund.
“At this point, I think all we can hope to do is sustain the pay raise in 2014, and that there will be no additional pay raises in 2015,” he said.
The Legislature will reconvene in January to begin work on the 2015 budgets, which will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2014.
Education employees received a two percent pay raise in the 2014 budget, which takes effect today. A teacher making $35,000 a year would see their pay increase by $700 a year, or about $13.46 a week; a teacher making $45,000 a year would see their pay go up $900 annually, or $17.30 a week.
The Legislature voted in 2011 to increase teachers’ retirement contributions by 2.5 percent.
Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, the chairman of the House education budget committee, was more cautious about the prospects of a pay raise, saying it was “too early” to make any definite decisions on spending in the 2015 budget.
In the Regular Session this spring, Pittman pushed to reduce the pay raise to one percent, with a one percent bonus if the money was available. A conference committee restored the two percent increase.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn and a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said at after the conference they would look to their chairs for guidance on the budgets.
There may be a limited pot of money for lawmakers to use for funding for 2015. Pittman also said at the press conference that the 2015 Education Trust Fund budget would be capped at $5.9 billion, under the budget requirements of the 2011 Rolling Reserve Act. The cap means overall spending will increase by $135 million; last year, a one percent pay raise for teachers was estimated to cost between $33 and $40 million.
Lance Latham, a spokesman for the House Minority Caucus, said Democrats planned to unveil their own teacher pay raise proposal soon.
– posted by Brian Lyman