THE WOODLANDS TX - Salary increases and added positions within the Community Associations of The Woodlands make up the biggest change between the 2007 budget and the $15.4 million proposed 2008 budget.

""When we put together the 2008 budget, we were looking at new growth,"" which will be significant, Community Associations General Manager Don Norrell told board members at a joint meeting Tuesday. If approved by the three governing boards of directors, the associations will budget $822,000 to bump up salaries and benefits next year. Salaries for association employees increased 2.7 percent this year, and, if approved, staff will receive another 2 percent increase in 2008, said Susan Welbes, director of Human Resources.

""We are recommending an increase comparable to what other employers are offering,"" Welbes said at the meeting. The associations studied the pay increases for employees in the Town Center Improvement District (proposed), Grand Prairie, Sugar Land, College Station, Conroe and similar Texas cities.

Other proposed changes include a shift in health insurance carriers from United HealthCare, which proposed a 32 percent rate increase for association employees in the coming year, to Blue Cross Blue Shield, which wanted 12 percent over the current rate. ""Twelve percent is the national trend,"" Welbes said, citing a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute that stated health insurance premiums will go up by an average of 9.9 percent. Staff is recommending directors approve the addition of one position in the Information Technology Department, two positions in Covenant Administration and seven positions to Parks and Recreation.

Overall 11 new full-time positions are proposed, 10 of which are because of growth in the community

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