School districts across the state are scrambling at a time when budget negotiations for the coming school year are falling into place.
With the flick of a pen across House Bill 3, a massive overhaul of public school finance, Gov. Greg Abbott threw a box of monkey wrenches into an already complex process.
Even though buzz had abounded for months leading up to the final passage from bill to law, it took some time for the rhetorical dust to settle before school districts and board members knew what they were working with.
While the sprawling redesign of public school finance covers a lot of ground in its hundreds of pages, a few points in particular stand out.
The amount the state will pay districts per student, known as the basic allotment, will increase by roughly 20%.
Lawmakers decreed that school districts must allot at least 30% of increased funds toward pay raises. Three-quarters of that amount is automatically designated to teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians. The remaining portion is slotted for all other non-administrative full-time employees.
Lawmakers told districts, without specific guidance, to give preference in pay raises to those with more experience.
Of particular interest for property owners is the automatic drop in school tax rates. To cut through much of the minutiae, this means the base school tax rate will lower approximately 7 cents in the coming school year.
Below is a brief breakdown of how three local school districts — Denton, Aubrey and Krum — are handling the changes. For the most part, specifics detailed by each entity are preliminary and subject to change.
All three will be getting more money and intend to use part of it to increase teacher pay beyond state requirements. While tax rates were lowered across the board, the growth in school funding from property taxes is also capped at 2.5% in the future. A public election would be needed to increase that rate beyond a 2.5% increase.
The tax rate for the coming school year will drop from $1.54 to $1.47 per $100 property valuation, according to the approved budget.
According to the Denton Central Appraisal District, the average home value in Denton ISD was $243,469 in 2018. School district taxes for a house with that value in 2019 would amount to roughly $3,579 — about $170 less than it would be with the previous tax rate.
School board members reviewed a proposal Tuesday evening that would bring the starting salary for new core staff members to $54,300. In the proposal, teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians with between one and five years of experience will get a minimum pay bump of $1,600, while those beyond that threshold will receive a minimum bump of $2,960.
When including pay increases to auxiliary staff, that would mean nearly $9 million in additional spending.
After accounting for the hit to property tax collections, Aubrey ISD is expected to gain $844,615 in new money, according to information presented to school board members on June 18, but nothing is certain at this point.
“We’re still trying to work through exactly how much additional funding we’re gong to get,” said David Belding, district superintendent.
During a board meeting Wednesday, members approved a payment package that includes raises between $2,000 and $3,300 based upon experience level for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians.
HB3 came just as Krum schools were about to lose a one-time grant of $1.7 million through the Hardship Grant Program, the final surviving aspect of a dead program meant to help property-poor districts in the state.
“This additional funding was really helpful to us at the right time,” said Bryan Moore, chief financial officer for Krum ISD.
Moore said the district will gain roughly $3 million this coming school year through HB3. After factoring out lost grant money and the reduction in property tax revenue, the district will receive about $400,000 to $500,000 in new money.
Because teacher pay increases are based upon budget increases year-to-year, and Krum ISD just lost $1.7 million, teachers aren’t guaranteed more than about $1,000 in raises.
“Which is much less than what’s been advertised,” Moore said.
Because of that, he said the school board intends to increase teacher pay above that amount, which will result in an across-the-board raise of roughly 6%.