Tomball ISD approves balanced budget

The Tomball ISD school board adopted a $98.7 million balanced budget for the 2014-15 academic year that provides pay increases for district employees and maintains the same tax rate.

Jim Ross, chief financial officer for Tomball ISD, said the $98.7 million budget total, which was approved at the July 15 meeting, is an increase of 7.19 percent from last year. The increase in the budget total is a result of additional expenditures needed for hikes in pay, minimum wage, starting teacher salaries, staff positions, insurance premiums and utility costs.

"Adjustments to payroll providing a $50,000 starting teacher salary, a minimum wage of $10, a 3 percent salary increase and the addition of new staff account for 92.5 percent of the budget increase," Ross said. "The remaining 7.5 percent was due to increases in insurance premiums and utility costs."

The 3 percent salary increase for all district employees and raising starting teacher salaries from $48,000 to $50,000 were designed to keep TISD competitive with other districts in the region, he said.

"Tomball ISD must maintain a strong competitive position to maintain the quality of staff we are accustomed to employing," he said.

TISD is limited to a fixed revenue per pupil formula, which is made up of local tax revenues and state aid, Ross said. If the tax base rises, the district must generate more of the fixed amount per pupil, which reduces the state's contribution.

The only way revenues increase for the district is through higher attendance due to enrollment growth or improved attendance of existing enrollment, he said.

"Our operating revenues have increased for these two reasons only," Ross said.

Attendance of existing enrollment is measured by converting enrollment to a weighted total known as weighted average daily attendance. As WADA rises, so does state funding for the district, Ross said.

As for the TISD tax rate for the 2014-15 school year, it will hold steady at $1.36 as it has for seven years, Ross said.

"It's really a big deal that there has been no hike in the tax rate in the district for the past seven years, especially when the state doesn't make it easy on the district," said Michael Pratt, vice president of the TISD school board. "Seven years in a row is very impressive."

Despite adopting a balanced budget, Ross said the district will need to amend to a deficit budget in the future because of new regulations, which are not yet in place, but will cause a decrease in fund balance.