Clear Creek ISD board approves FY 2019-20 budget; tax rate expected to decrease

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The Clear Creek ISD board of trustees Aug. 26 approved the fiscal year 2019-20 budget, which includes a projected property tax rate decrease, raises and new hires, and a greater share of state revenue.

The tax rate has been steady at $1.40 per $100 valuation since FY 2013-14, but the rate is expected to drop to $1.31 per $100 valuation for FY 2019-20, mostly due to House Bill 3. The rate includes $0.97 for maintenance and operations and $0.34 for debt service. The tax rate will not be finalized until September.

The budget is set at $361.2 million, which is a few million dollars higher than the FY 2018-19 budget of $346.6 million. The budget has a deficit of about $4 million that the district will make up by pulling money from its capital project fund, but district officials said they expect to make more revenue during the 2019-20 school year than budgeted for, making the use of $4 million worth of capital projects monies unnecessary, said Paul McLarty, the deputy superintendent of business and support services.

About 66.8% of all new expenditures are related to instruction and will be funneled directly into the classroom. A large part of this percentage relates to salary raises, McLarty said.

HB 3 mandated the district spend at least $3.9 million on salary raises for teachers. Under a previously board-approved action, raises will actually total about $7.7 million for teachers and $4 million for other staff for the 2019-20 school year. In total, the district gave raises between 4% and 9.5%, McLarty said.

“I don’t remember it ever being that high since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here 16, 17 years,” he said.

Like other Greater Houston-area districts, CCISD is suffering a shortage of bus drivers. The FY 2019-20 budget will raise the hourly rate for bus drivers from about $16.83 an hour to $19 an hour, McLarty said.

Still, the district was short about 20 bus drivers the opening week of school, and other staff members had to fill in. If there are not enough drivers, children do not get picked up, McLarty said.

Dickinson ISD had a lower starting wage for bus drivers and raised rates to $19 an hour, prompting several CCISD bus drivers to leave. CCISD had to raise rates to remain competitive, putting a $300,000 dent in the budget, McLarty said.

The district will add 44.25 full-time staff for the 2019-20 school year, 17.5 of which will be for the new Campbell Elementary School. Another 9.5 are teachers and support staff for special education, which the district is working to improve districtwide.

“If you look at this budget, it’s staff, and it’s salary and benefits,” McLarty said. “That’s the main crux of the budget.”

The administrative cost ratio for the district is 4.26%, which is the percentage of the district’s expenses that are spent on administrative positions. The district has been beneath 5% for 12 straight years, and the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation for a district of CCISD’s size is 8.55%, McLarty said.

“So we’re very efficient when it comes to manpower,” he said.

HB 3 also increased the state share of revenue by $18.1 million compared to the FY 2018-19 budget. About 31.8% of FY 2019-20 revenue is budgeted to come from the state compared to 27.9% for FY 2018-19. It is the first jump in the percentage the state has been giving to CCISD since FY 2013-14, according to district data.

“They increased the pie but not by that much,” board President Laura DuPont said.

The percentage of local tax dollars contributing to CCISD’s revenue has been increasing steadily since FY 2013-14. FY 2019-20 calls for 66.3% of revenue to come from local taxes compared to 70.5% for FY 2018-19.

There is still a wide gap between local and state revenue, but McLarty hopes the district sees the gap move closer toward a 50-50 split, which is a goal at the state level, he said.

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Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for a few years, covering topics such as city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be an editor with Community Impact. In his free time, Magee enjoys playing video games, jamming on the drums and bass, longboarding and petting his cat.
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