The Judson ISD board of trustees approved the fiscal year 2024-25 budget June 25 alongside last-minute amendments to the compensation plan.

Two-minute impact

During the budget presentation, district staff said the revenues in the FY 2024-25 budget were estimated at around $236 million with total appropriations around $272 million. With the approval of disaster pennies, which leverage tax rate as a way to increase revenue, the total revenue was increased to around $248 million.

Prior to the approval of the budget, the board made changes to the compensation package.

The last-minute changes included:
  • A 1% raise for teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors
  • The reclassification of several employee positions
  • The reinstatement of a partnership with Communities in Schools
Since these changes were last-minute, the expenses added were not included in the total appropriations number. The budget will have a shortfall of around $23 million or more, depending on the total cost of changes to the compensation plan, Superintendent Milton “Rob” Fields III said.

During discussion on the reinstatement of the Communities in Schools partnership, Fields pointed out the level of budget specificity by the board is not typical.

“The job of the board is to vote on the budget for the functions, not how we spend the money,” Fields said. “This is a level that you typically don’t get involved in. You just vote on the functions, and then we determine how the money needs to be spent based on our subject matter expertise.”

The overview

Prior to the changes, the proposed budget came in with a shortfall of around $36 million, according to a budget presentation from staff.

Apart from the approval of the budget and compensation plan, trustees voted in favor of the use of disaster pennies, which will raise additional funds through an increase in the maintenance and operations, or M&O, tax rate.

To offset the increase in the M&O rate, Fields said a future amendment will be brought before the board to reduce the interest and sinking, or I&S, rate, which funds the repayment of debt for district facilities.

The approval of this funding change will decrease the shortfall by approximately $12 million, leading to a new total of around $23 million. This new total was calculated prior to compensation changes approved by the board on June 25.

District staff said this change will keep the tax rate balanced, and taxpayers will not see any increase in the rate while the district continues to meet debt obligations.

The impact

Teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors will see a 1% raise under the new compensation plan.

In a motion made by trustee Laura Stanford, this group of employees had a $500 incentive removed from the compensation plan to include the pay raise. This change will cost an estimated $380,000 on top of budget shortfalls.

Under this change, a new teacher would go from making around $60,300 to $60,900, which would be the second-highest starting teacher salary in the San Antonio area, Fields said.

The $500 one-time incentive will still be paid to all other staff, with payouts expected in December, according to a June 25 news release.

Alongside this, trustee Monica Ryan made a motion to reclassify four roles to match the market value as listed from a recommendation from the Texas Association of School Boards.

Fields said these changes could lead to an estimated $50,000 increase to budget shortfalls, but that number is dependent on benefits and other factors.

“When you go up on salaries, then you go up on benefits and all of the other things,” Fields said.

What else?

Trustee José Macias Jr. put forth a motion to reinstate an agreement with Communities in Schools, which was approved in a 4-3 vote.

Previously, the organization served around 10 schools in the district by assisting students in need of emotional support, school supplies and other resources.

Fields said the original agreement cost the district around $575,000, and upon revisiting with the organization, a new agreement was proposed to serve five schools at a cost of around $160,000.

During the meeting, Fields mentioned the reason for the organization being removed from the budget was due to some campus leaders not feeling like the agreement was providing value compared to the investment.

However, some campus leaders did feel like the organization provided benefits, which led to the recommendation for the organization serving five campuses, Fields said.

Macias also made motions for incentive additions for bilingual teachers and special education paraprofessionals, which the board did not approve.

Moving forward

Prior to the adoption of the budget, the board of trustees held a public hearing where trustees discussed the need to look at the budget moving forward to find areas where funding can be reduced without having to cut programs or positions.

Board President Suzanne Kenoyer said the board of trustees and the district can start the budget process earlier to make budget decisions with purpose.

“We have a year now to bring forward some things that we can do not only during the year but moving forward to the next budget cycle,” Kenoyer said.

During budget discussions, Fields said getting the budget in line will require tough decisions.

“The decisions are only going to get tougher,” Fields said. “And as we do that—to Miss Ryan’s point—we are going to have to make the hard call and stick by that call.”

With the approval of the budget, the board of trustees will consider the tax rate in August or September.