Trustees took a first glance at the district's $157.7 million general fund budget May 11 with a second budget workshop planned for June before trustees vote to approve the budget at the board's June meeting. FY 2020-21 begins July 1. As such, Chief Financial Officer Jim Ross said the latest the board can adopt the budget for the upcoming year is June 19.
In addition to weathering the coronavirus pandemic, TISD plans to open new bond-funded facilities in FY 2020-21, including its new elementary school, natatorium and agricultural project center, Ross said.
"We're opening a new elementary but also other additions, such as the [agricultural] center and natatorium. They'll come along on the back of this fiscal year," Ross said. "The other side to this—the COVID-19—is the state is definitely in an economic recession."
However, the proposed budget is based on maintaining the district's property tax rate of $1.29 per $100 valuation, which was lowered from $1.34 per $100 valuation in FY 2019-20.
Other key items of the $157.7 million general fund budget include adding 154.5 employees, many of whom are designated for the district's new elementary school, Grand Oaks Elementary, opening in August, and other new facilities. The district's first full-day pre-K programming will also be offered at Grand Oaks Elementary, which is an additional cost, Ross said. The net cost for staffing Grand Oaks Elementary is approximately $2.9 million, according to information presented during the budget workshop.
"In the past I've typically projected that opening a new school would cost us about $2 million. It's gone up now; wages are higher," Ross said. "You also have added to this campus pre-K, which had not been there before, so it's an entirely additional grade level that's being added to this campus versus other elementary campuses we've opened."
New positions include 75 teachers needed for growth, 71.5 nonteaching positions—such as additional dyslexia specialists at all campuses but high schools—and funds reserved for eight teaching positions, should more staffing positions be needed later in the year, Ross said.
The district saw a year-over-year enrollment increase of 7.67% as of March 31, Ross said, which was prior to the coronavirus pandemic, so staffing may need to be adjusted if the enrollment growth is less.
"We're very clear that there could be a slowdown in the enrollment growth that we're facing, but we also are very clear that our students have lost some time in class, and if we're going to have a need as far as to reduce in the future, we can adjust that. But right now we want to bring in 75 new teachers for growth and to decrease our student-to-teacher ratio," Ross said.
The proposed FY 2020-21 general fund budget is balanced and is an increase of $10 million in revenue and $12 million in expenses, according to district information. In FY 2019-20, the district had a surplus of $2 million.
Although the district projects state and local funding to increase from FY 2019-20 to FY 2020-21, Ross said he is concerned whether the additional funding from the state will continue after this upcoming fiscal year when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021. House Bill 3 poured $11.6 billion into the school finance system when it was signed into law June 11, 2019, providing more state funding to school districts and requiring new initiatives, such as implementing full-day pre-K, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
"When we look at the revenues and expenditures of this budget, the primary concerns we have are state funding concerns as far as in the future. We've been talking about it since House Bill 3 passed [in 2019]. We only saw a 3% increase [in state funding] with House Bill 3, and that's all we're going to see in the future," Ross said.