The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees approved a $580.4 million general operating budget for the 2015-16 academic year as well as maintained the district’s overall tax rate at its June 15 meeting.
“Fort Bend ISD’s 2015-16 budget is indicative of sound financial management and prudent stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” FBISD Chief Financial Officer Steven Bassett said.
The adopted budget reflects a 3.75 percent increase from the 2014-15 budget, which district officials said is due in large part to increases in compensation and staffing. The budget accounted for additional staffing needed for anticipated student growth, a class size ratio of 22-to-1 for grades K-4 and more staffing to reduce class sizes at the secondary level.
The district prepared the budget to account for a total of 73,377 students in 2015-16, which is an increase based on a moderate growth projection by demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts.
Included in the general fund budget is about $17.4 million for salary increases, new positions, stipend adjustments and reclassifications previously approved by the board. All teachers in the district will receive an average salary increase of 2.1 percent, while other district employees will receive a raise of 2 percent of the midpoint. The board previously increased the starting teacher pay scale from $50,000 to $50,500, with uniform $500 salary increases each year through year 21.
Also included in the budget is the addition of 84 positions throughout the district. Of the added positions, 74 are campus-based, including 50.5 new teacher positions, 12.5 campus professional positions and 11 paraprofessional positions. There are also 10 new positions for non-campus professional staff.
The school board also opted to maintain the district’s overall tax rate at its existing level of $1.34 per $100 valuation, which includes a debt service tax rate of 30 cents and a maintenance and operations tax rate of $1.04.
“Our overall tax rate is much lower than most of our peer districts,” Bassett said. “By effectively managing our debt and being fiscally conservative, our district has put itself in a position to balance student needs, employee needs and taxpayer concerns while we prepare for the future.”
In addition to approving the general fund budget, the board also approved a $46.7 million child nutrition budget and a debt service budget of $102.6 million. The debt services budget increased from $76.6 million in 2014-15 to $102.6 million in 2015-16, which reflects the issuance of $100 million in new debt, the first from the $484 million bond referendum approved by voters in November 2014, district officials said.
“We anticipate being able to keep the debt service tax rate the same while we absorb the costs associated with issuing bonds that were authorized by the voters last year,” Bassett said.
The general, debt service and children nutrition funds reflect an 11.5 percent increase in property values of the district, however, the increased property taxes only benefit the debt service fund. Revenue per student in the general fund is increasing by only 1.75 percent, FBISD officials said. The district budgeting cost per student is $7,909 and does not include federal funding.