Fort Bend ISD staff proposed Monday a general operating budget of $634.63 million for the 2018-19 school year to be supported by the current tax rate of $1.32 per $100 of taxable property value. Approximately 80 percent of the budget would be utilized for instruction and instructional support, district officials said.
Based on the average taxable value of homes in the district, residents may see their tax bill increase by nearly $85 for the school district’s portion, even as the tax rate remains unchanged, according to meeting documents.
The recommended budget would provide teacher salaries and cover operating expenses, equating to an allotment of $8,360 per student. Enrollment estimates are anticipated to reach 75,909 students based on demographic data, FBISD Budget Director Bryan Guinn said.
“When you compare the district’s tax rate to 24 other local districts, we have the fourth lowest tax rate at $1.32,” Guinn said.
TXSmartSchools, an online assessment tool administered by Texas A&M University, scores FBISD very high in academic progress, which shows the quality education students receive, he said.
“Taking into consideration with the information from TXSmartSchools on student achievement, I believe it illustrates that we are prudent in the way that we manage taxpayer resources,” Guinn said.
FBISD staff also identified $12.9 million in savings, reducing the budget by taking actions such as authorizing a lower-rate utilities contract, reducing planning periods, consolidating bilingual and prekindergarten classrooms, adjusting professional services and development and centralizing staff, Guinn said.
Nonetheless, operating expenditures are projected to exceed operating revenues by approximately $7.86 million, Guinn said.
“In the 2017-18 estimate, you can see that we had initially budgeted about $12 million in economic stabilization,” he said. “However, we’re anticipating only using $1.56 million of that, so we should have close to $10 million carrying over that would be available for use next year.”
For the 2018-19 year, district staff is proposing to allocate $5.86 million of the remaining economic stabilization fund and $2 million from other sources such as tuition from FBISD’s supplemental programs, FBISD Chief Financial Officer Steve Bassett said.
Staff projects the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year may see potential deficits of $23 million and $32 million, respectively, according to meeting documents. The district must then rely on fund balances to cover the shortfalls.
“This is to give an idea of how things could progress,” Guinn said. “It’s not necessarily an indication of how things will progress, but as we look beyond 2018-19, we’re using a 3-percent growth rate each year for property taxes. We’re assuming no change in the state’s funding formulas and that we do not receive any additional [Hurricane] Harvey-related reimbursements.”
The district must also consider the opening of the new James Reese Career and Technical Education Center, anticipated student enrollment growth, staffing needs and compensation adjustments, Guinn said.
Several trustees, including Grayle James, expressed concern over the anticipated budget deficits.
“This is the stark reality of our situation that our school district is facing a financial wall, essentially,” James said. “I’m beginning to believe that just cutting back in some areas is not going to be enough, and it’s going to come to prioritizing and choosing things to continue versus things that we need to choose to stop doing.”
The district will decide on the adoption of the proposed budget at the next FBISD board of trustees meeting on June 18, Guinn said. The school district is set to adopt the tax rate in September.