The Spring ISD board of trustees is moving forward with a preliminary budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that would include a 2% increase to the salaries of all staff members.

At a June 8 school board meeting, district officials said the recommended budget will be available for residents to view after it is finalized before a June 22 special board meeting.

Spring ISD Superintendent Rodney Watson said at the board’s June 8 meeting that the move was necessary for the district to continue to recruit talented employees.

“This proposal will further enhance our competitiveness as we look to recruit and retain the very best employees throughout the area,” he said. “Spring ISD is committed to being an employer of choice for educators and our staff, and we’re constantly looking at ways to ensure we’re offering competitive salaries.”

At the board's June 3 workshop, SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said the 2% salary increase would be recurring and based on the control point, or the midpoint salary, of each position. She noted the starting salary for a district teacher under the preliminary budget would be roughly $57,000 annually.

According to Westbrooks, the district will face a nearly a $20 million shortfall for the 2021-22 school year, but she said it would be offset by money received through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds made available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Westbrooks said ESSER funds will continue to be available through the 2023-24 school year.

“We know that each year we’ll have to continue to study this and look at our actual student enrollment and student attendance and then adjust accordingly going forward,” she said. “Even so, we feel as though we really need to keep the momentum and remain competitive with our salaries.”

In other business, Watson touched on the district’s commitment to virtual learning in the coming school year. Texas lawmakers failed to pass a bill in the 2021 legislative session that would have ensured funding for districts for each student enrolled in online-only classes, leaving the fate of distance learning in limbo.

In response to the lack of funding, Cy-Fair ISD officials confirmed June 7 the district is no longer exploring the option of launching a virtual academy. However, Watson said that is not the case in SISD.

“We want to reassure everyone, however, that we’re moving forward planning of our virtual academy to serve students grades three through 12 starting in August,” Watson said. “We are hoping that the Texas Educational Agency will provide a waiver process that will allow us to keep the virtual classroom option open for some of our students.”