4 takeaways from RRISD's 2017-18 budget planning workshop

Round Rock ISD is projecting a $6.62 million shortfall next fiscal year, but staffers presented the board Tuesday evening with several options that could help close the gap.

Trustees heard several presentations regarding the projected budget shortfall as well as options to raise pay for RRISD employees.

Randy Staats, RRISD's chief financial officer, told trustees they have several decisions to make before a 2017-18 budget proposal is finalized.

Tuesday's presentations were informational items, and the board took no action.

Another budget workshop is planned for May 4. A public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rate for 2017-18 is scheduled for June 22, according to the district.

Here are four takeaways:

1. RRISD projects a $6.62 million "working deficit" for next year.

District staff initially anticipated an $11 million shortfall but found adjustments in several areas to help close the gap. Options include $1.5 million in added revenue by increasing an estimate of the district's interest earnings and saving $1 million through reductions in startup costs for the new Pearson Ranch Middle School, which is set to open in August. Trustees may be able to save up to $740,000 in leasing costs for portable classrooms by using general operating funds to purchase portables, according to RRISD staff. Additional savings could come through changes to the district's employee health care benefits plan.

2. The district estimates its property values will increase by 10 percent in 2017-18.

By contrast, RRISD projects an 11.7 percent property value growth for the current fiscal year.

3. The district expects to see a greater increase in enrollment.

RRISD staff estimates the district's enrollment will increase by 526 students next year, up from a projected increase of 444 students during the 2016-17 school year. RRISD's total enrollment is 47,970 students, according to the most recent count.

4. Trustees were presented with two options for faculty and staff pay increases.

One would increase general RRISD pay rates by 2 percent next fiscal year, and a second option would increase rates by 1.5 percent. RRISD has increased employee pay by either 2 percent or more in each of the past five years.