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Education

Austin Community College employees call for a 10% raise as living expenses soar

The outside of the Austin Community College building on the Highland campus
Renee Dominguez
/
KUT

Austin Community College employees are urging the board of trustees to approve a 10% raise and increase the minimum wage to $22 in the next budget. The push comes as employees face rising costs for housing, gas and food, with inflation at an over 40-year high.

At a board meeting Monday, employees told trustees they face tough financial decisions because their salaries are not keeping up with the cost of living.

“I love ACC,” said Carly Boal, an academic adviser based at ACC's Riverside campus who recently had to move north to Round Rock. “But I’m now facing a struggle of if I can continue to work here.”

Dana Gutierrez, an administrative assistant at ACC, echoed Boal’s sentiment. She told trustees while she loves her job, the pay is not keeping up with expenses. Her rent, for example, has gone up $400.

“From a purely monetary point of view it would make sense for me to seek other employment, but I don’t want to do that,” she said.

Members of the ACC board and administration acknowledged employees are in a challenging situation. Neil Vickers, vice chancellor of finance and administration, said ACC understands employees are facing significant financial pressures.

“We absolutely recognize that there are some incredibly difficult things going on in the economy right now that [are] impacting our employees," he said.

Vickers said ACC cannot afford to offer 10% percent raises to all employees, but wants to get as many people as close to that figure as possible. Under the compensation package the school administration is proposing, employees would receive either a 5% raise or a $5,000 raise depending on which is greater. This amounts to a median raise of 7.6%, with raises ranging from 5% to just over 15%.

Vickers added the compensation package would increase the minimum wage from $15.60 to $18 an hour. He also presented an option to increase the minimum wage to $20, saying it would cost ACC $400,000. To raise the minimum wage up to $22, he said, it would cost ACC more than a $1 million.

Vickers said the raises ACC is proposing are higher than what other large community colleges are planning.

“ACC actually has a history of paying very well relative to our industry peers, which is what our goal has always been,” he said.

But David Albert, a professor of government at ACC and president of the ACC American Federation of Teachers union, said he is disappointed in the administration’s proposal. In an emailed statement, he said it doesn't come close to the 10% raise employees are seeking.

“Most employees will receive raises that are well under the rate of inflation in Austin,” he said. “ Also, the raises for adjunct faculty and hourly employees are proportional to those of full-time employees so many are getting substantially less than the $5000 raise that [the] administration is claiming that it is giving to employees.”

Two-thirds of ACC’s projected revenue for fiscal year 2023 comes from property taxes. Tuition and fees are expected to account for just under 15%. In April, the board of trustees voted to keep 2022-2023 tuition and fees unchanged for the ninth year in a row.

The ACC board will vote on the budget when it meets July 12.

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