While an official vote will not be made until May, a majority of Eanes ISD trustees are leaning toward approving a 2% compensation increase for staff in the 2021-22 school year.

“I’m hearing a relative consensus at 2%,” Superintendent Tom Leonard said following a lengthy discussion held during a Feb. 23 virtual board meeting.

The increase will likely be provided based on the midpoint salary—a practice recommended by the Texas Association of School Boards. The midpoint represents the middle of EISD’s salary range, which varies from less to more years of experience.

Per this scale, trustees were in favor of providing a compensation increase based on the salary of those with 18 years or less of experience, which makes up roughly 75% of staff. Leonard noted that more employees would benefit from following this model rather than an across-the-board increase.

Notably, staff did not receive a compensation or benefit adjustment for the 2020-21 school year. The decision was made in light of significant budgetary concerns, in part created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those fiscal constraints remain a concern for trustees and district officials as of the Feb. 23 meeting. The district could face a projected budget shortfall of nearly $600,000 in the upcoming school year, according to Chief Financial Officer Chris Scott.

While the district has indicated that disproportionate state funding will result in ongoing fiscal challenges, several factors could prevent EISD from sliding into a sizeable budget deficit. Those include enrollment numbers and a projected tax base growth, according to Scott.

EISD typically experiences an annual 6.1% increase in residential property value referred to as tax-assessed value. However, Scott said the district has reason to believe it may be higher this year.

This is because the Travis Central Appraisal District did not appraise residential property values in 2020.

“In essence on the residential property we may be seeing two years of growth reflected in this year’s numbers,” Leonard said. “We don’t necessarily think that 9.4% [growth] is extremely aggressive.”

Even considering an anticipated spike in tax-assessed value, EISD will likely need to make cuts to its employee pool to approve a balanced budget. That reduction could land in the neighborhood of 16 full-time or equivalent employees, which would be achieved through natural attrition, according to district officials.

Trustee Heather Sheffield said she wanted to keep the reduction “as far away from the classroom as possible.”

The board did not take an official vote regarding staff reductions, and Leonard acknowledged that trustees will have flexibility moving forward. EISD factors in contingency staff positions and may bring in additional teachers upon the review of class sizes.

Final decisions surrounding compensation and staffing decisions will take place in May or June as the district continues budget planning for the upcoming school year.