Despite a shortfall of over $7 million, the 2018-19 Clear Creek ISD budget maintains the property tax rate of $1.4 per $100 valuation.
The CCISD board of trustees in late August approved the 2018-19 budget, which includes a deficit that partially comes from the school safety upgrades approved in July.
The budget includes $346.6 million in expenses and $339.4 million in revenue, making a shortfall of about $7.2 million. The district will pull money from its capital project fund, which includes excess money the district earmarked for use in case of a shortfall, said Paul McLarty, deputy superintendent of business and support services.
A little over $2 million of the deficit came from the board’s decision to hire 15 additional liaison officers and 15 additional student-support counselors as a response to the Santa Fe school shooting in May, McLarty said.
Most of the rest can be chalked up to Hurricane Harvey, he said.
Based on past years, the district expected property tax revenue to increase 7-8 percent this year, but it went up only about 3.25 percent because of the damage Harvey caused, McLarty said.
“We had lower taxable values, which kinda hurt us,” he said. “That put the biggest crunch on our revenues for this year.”
Additionally state revenue funneled to CCISD continued its downward trend, adding to the deficit, he said.
Still, the district does not expect to end the 2018-19 budget with such a large deficit. Each year the district usually secures an additional $5 million in revenue for which it does not budget, so the deficit could end up being as little as $2 million, but the capital project fund dollars are there just in case, McLarty said.
“We certainly don’t think we’re going to use all of that $7.2 million,” he said.
Despite the shortfall the property tax rate will remain at $1.4 per $100 valuation, where it has been for the past few years.
The 2017-18 tax rate includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and $0.36 for debt service. For the 2018-19 tax rate the district moved two pennies from debt service to maintenance and operations to help bring in extra revenue. Under state law the district can do this without a vote the year after a natural disaster for a single fiscal year.
McLarty said despite the deficit it was important to not increase its property tax rate to honor those who suffered hardship from Harvey.
“Many of our taxpayers here were flooded,” McLarty said.
Other budget highlights include a 2 percent salary increase for teachers and other staff and the creation of new 35.5 full-time positions, which will help reduce class sizes.
“We have growth every year, so this is to meet the growth needs,” McLarty said.
Board member Laura DuPont said it is unsustainable to continue to raise salaries, which make up the most of the district’s increase in expenses.
McLarty said the state Legislature might help but that the board might need to find local solutions to budget problems.