Willis ISD is projecting an $81.4 million balanced general fund budget for fiscal year 2023-24, which includes a lower property tax rate and no pay increase, said Garrett Matej, WISD assistant superintendent of business and finance, during the district's first budget workshop June 14.

However, the board of trustees could approve additional one-time retention bonuses for staff using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds the district received as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which would equate to an approximately 7%, or $4,000, pay raise for the 2023-24 school year, Superintendent Tim Harkrider said during the meeting.

The big picture

Matej said the percent of the district's general fund budget funded by the state has declined as local property values have increased, leaving the district with no new revenue outside of growing its average daily attendance.
  • 57.3% of WISD's general fund budget came from local revenue in FY 2021-22.
  • That number is projected to grow to 69% of the budget funded by local revenue in the ongoing FY 2022-23, Matej said.
  • WISD is projecting an $81.4 million balanced general fund budget for FY 2023-24 with $56.7 million in local revenue, $22.7 million in state revenue and about $2 million in federal funding.
Matej said costs are up in most area's of the upcoming year's budget, such as utilities and insurance.

What they're saying

“This budget’s ... as tight as we ever had," Matej said. “Unfortunately, that means at this point in time due to current revenue projections, we cannot recommend a percentage raise for Willis ISD employees."

What else?

Preliminary property values show taxable values increasing 13.52% year over year in WISD, Matej said, which leads to a projected decrease in the district's property tax rate for the upcoming year.
  • The tax rate is projected to be $1.0746 per $100 valuation, down from $1.1546 in FY 2022-23
  • This is a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate over the last five years.
Going forward

Although the district's preliminary budget does not include pay increases for staff—pending legislative changes during a special session—district officials said WISD has ESSER funds and a healthy general fund balance available for one-time payments for staff.

“The basic [funding] allotment has not been adjusted since 2019 while everything that we pay for has been double-digit inflation right now for four years. All of our costs are more expensive, we’ve taken on more employees, so we strategically kept some ESSER funds available," Harkrider said during the meeting.

He said the board will have to decide whether to give another retention bonus to staff in December 2023 and/or August 2024 using ESSER funds, which could include $1,500 to each professional employee and $1,000 to each hourly or part-time employee.

The board previously approved similar one-time bonuses for staff in November, which included:
  • One bonus paid in December 2022, totaling $1,500 for professional employees; $1,000 for hourly and part-time employees; and $500 for part-time employees with a start date on or before Nov. 1 and all other full-time employees with a start date between Sept. 2-Nov. 1
  • One bonus to be paid for returning employees in August 2023, totaling $2,500 to each professional employee and $1,500 for each hourly or part-time employee.