The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees approved the district’s $737.5 million budget for the 2020-21 year at its June 15 meeting. The approved budget does not include raises for teachers and staff, nor does it include step increases.

FBISD Chief Financial Officer Bryan Guinn said pay increases were not included in the budget because of the need to be fiscally conservative during the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

During the June 8 budget workshop, several trustees, including Jim Rice, expressed gratitude to the district’s financial department for proposing a conservative budget, which he said he believes will allow the district to get through the 2020-21 school year.

“It’s important for us to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and to take care of all of our teachers, and all of our staff and everyone in Fort Bend ISD because every single one of our employees is necessary to educate our kids, and we know that,” Rice said. “But it doesn’t do us any good—it doesn’t do anyone any good—to give raises at this time and then have to take them away next year.”

Concersn over funding for the 2021-22 school year stem from changes the Texas Legislature made by enacting House Bill 3 and the estimated effect the coronavirus pandemic may have on state funding for education.

Glenda Macal, the president of the Fort Bend American Federation of Teachers, said during the public comment portion of the budget workshop that teachers should not bear the burden of the district’s need to be frugal.

“We are asking you to reconsider the proposal to the budget that does not include the customary step increase for years of service that all teachers are accustomed to receiving, and [we are asking for] an increase for support staff that they deserve,” Macal said.

Of the district’s $737.5 million budget, 87% goes toward salary and benefits, while the remaining 13% is for operations and maintenance, according to a FBISD budget presentation.

Included in the district’s budget is $16.8 million for 246 new positions, Guinn said. He said these new staff members are necessary because of growth in the district and to meet some of the district’s strategic priorities.

Guinn said that as the district looks ahead, step increases are expected to continue in the 2021-22 school year but that they are not projecting general raises for non-teaching staff.

District staff said despite there not being increases in teacher wages this year, FBISD still offers competitive teacher salaries.

In nearby Houston ISD, the board authorized step raises along with a one-time retention bonus in their 2020-21 budget.

The proposed 2020-21 budget is $21.7 million more than the estimated 2019-20 budget.

Property tax and tax rate information

Under HB 3, school districts whose taxable property values increase more than 2.5% are subjected to additional tax rate compression.

FBISD is expected to have $44.6 billion of property value in the area, resulting in a 7% increase in net taxable values over the current year.

Because of this, the district is estimating their maximum maintenance and operations tax rate will be $0.9424, down from $0.99 in the current year. The interest and sinking rate, which goes toward debt service, will increase by one cent to $0.29, as was approved by voters in the 2018 bond election.

Still, the overall tax rate, calculated at $1.2324, will decrease by $0.0376. For a home with $276,465 in taxable value, the homeowner's tax bill will increase by $35.62 annually, according to Guinn’s presentation.

Local revenue makes up $425.18 million, or 58% of the total revenue the district is projected to bring in during the 2020-21 school year.

HB 3 was designed to shift the burden of funding public education away from local taxpayers to the state, Guinn said. This shift is concerning, Guinn said, because of potential revenue shortfalls at the state level, which will not be addressed until the 2021 Texas legislative session.

“We don’t expect that to impact us in 2020-21,” Guinn said. “But we are extremely concerned about 2021-22 and beyond.”

Once the tax roll has been certified by the Fort Bend County Appraisal District and the Texas Education Agency calculates the maximum compressed tax rate for the district, FBISD will adopt the tax rate in September.