FISD looks to stretch state funds

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Teacher raises won’t be near ‘$5,000’ state had touted

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There was much ballyhoo at the beginning of the 86th Texas Legislative Session when Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen stated they planned to work for a $5,000-a-year raise for teachers and librarians.

But by the time the dust settles on the recently completed session, a much more modest raise is in store.

Deborah Ottmers, assistant superintendent for finance and business, gave a presentation to Fredericksburg Independent School District trustees on a still-murky picture of how much additional revenue the district can expect.

“Putting their words into numbers is quite challenging,” Ottmers said. “Some estimates show us getting $300,000 and another shows us getting an additional $1.2 million (in state revenue).”

Ottmers said the district has to give raises based on revenue gain — with some stipulations on how that money is doled out. But with a “guaranteed” 3% net increase in state funds, that would mean about $1 million more in revenue from the state.

By state rules, 75% of that new revenue would have to go to teacher raises, and the rest to non-administrative raises.

“It keeps changing as we’re trying to decipher what it means,” she said.

If the district only receives $1 million in new state revenue, then 30%, or $300,000, is required to be applied to teacher raises. That would mean an approximate $1,000 raise for teachers. That can appear disappointing to new hires and experienced hands as the district’s employees deal with the rising cost of living in Fredericksburg. 

So as of now, FISD plans to budget for a 2% raise, which will mean between $1,000 and $1,355 for teachers, depending on experience level.

Ottmers said that is about the same as what the district has done the past two years. The 2018-2019 year saw a $500 raise and another $500 in cost-of-living adjustment. The 2017-2018 year had a $1,000 cost-of-living adjustment.

But Ottmers lamented that the district will not be able to offer “anywhere near” the $5,000-per-teacher raise that was dangled by legislators at the beginning of the session.

 Any raises will come with the wording “based on known outcomes” as districts around Texas decipher what and how much new revenue they will receive from the state.

“If we end up with more revenue gain, we’ll likely add a cost-of-living adjustment mid-year if the requirements of the law are not met with the proposed 2% average increase,” she said. “In the end, we’ll give more than the state requires,” though not what it initially stated, she added.

Ottmers also said the district did not have to dip into its fund balance this year, thanks to conservative budgeting, attrition and cuts.

 

Tax rate

Ottmers said FISD’s maintenance and operations tax rate of $1.04 may be “compressed” to 97 cents per $100 valuation, thanks to the new state money.

The changes in the tax rate will mean a homeowner with a $300,000 home will see a lowering of his tax bill from the district by around $219.

FISD was slated to send $16 million to the state in recapture, or “Robin Hood” payments, but the new numbers show between a $9 million and $12 million recapture payment to the state. (Property wealthy school districts send a portion of their revenue to the state to offset revenue in property poor districts.)

“Since the tax rate will be lowered, revenue will go down, and therefore the amount we send to the state will go down,” she said.

Ottmers said she expects the variables to change as the state’s changes become clear.

 

Hires

The board also made five hires for the upcoming year:

Elementary – Sarah Long, special education;

FMS – Samuel Long, ESL and student tracker; Mary Alice Jones, English Language Arts, sixth-grade pre-AP.

FHS – Cpt. Bennie Sanchez, NJROTC instructor; Tim Glover, introduction to trade skills.