Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Edgewood Independent School District employees are set to receive raises, as the district’s governing board is expected to pass a nearly $100 million budget later this month.
The district normally starts its fiscal year on Sept. 1, but decided to switch to a July 1 start date for the upcoming year. With the state legislative session gaveling out less than a month ago, and a significant school finance reform bill taking effect, Edgewood ISD will be one of the first districts to grapple with all of the legislative changes.
At a budget workshop Tuesday night, district Chief Financial Officer Myrna Martinez broke down the new elements Edgewood will incorporate into its upcoming fiscal year. Edgewood taxpayers will see a reduction in their school district property tax bill with the passage of House Bill 3, the omnibus school finance bill that was signed into law Monday.
Last year, the board approved a tax rate of $1.38 for every $100 of property value. One of the provisions of HB 3 decreased a portion of districts’ tax rates.
Martinez proposed a new tax rate of $1.30 per $100 of property value. She estimated the average homeowner would see about a $48 decrease on his or her annual property tax bill from Edgewood ISD.
Edgewood’s CFO later elaborated on the other changes from HB 3 that would impact the district’s budget including funding added for dyslexic students, dual language programs, early education programs in kindergarten through third grade, and career and technology courses being funded for seventh graders.
She noted that money that came through a high school allotment, and a weight for gifted and talented students had been eliminated.
“The high school allotment is a big one for us because when you think of a school like [Kennedy High School], that is almost $1 million that we have now lost that we are going to have to now make up,” Superintendent Eduardo Hernandez said. “Gifted and talented … we will no longer get any weighted funding for that. … While we are getting help in some areas, we are also losing in some areas.”
Overall, Martinez projects the district will receive about $8.65 million in new revenue. Some of this funding has stipulations, including a requirement that the district use 30 percent of it toward compensation increases.
Roughly $2.9 million of this added revenue will be used for staff raises, said Travis McKelvain, Edgewood’s senior executive director of human resources. He proposed a 3 percent across the board raise for district staff with a 3.5 percent raise for teachers with six or more years of experience.
The increased state revenue would also help increase stipends for particular roles that the district wants to incentivize. For example, the district currently offers a $2,000 stipend to bilingual teachers, who fill a critical role that is often in high demand. McKelvain suggested increasing this stipend to $3,000.
He also proposed stipends increases for other critical needs areas including second-year math and science teachers, and English I or English II teachers. The full package will go before the board on June 25.
“Most of our stipends are right-aligned, if not a little above the market,” McKelvain said. “We want to be extra competitive and have the competitive edge [to] not only keep bilingual teachers, but also attract them.”
At the beginning of her presentation, Martinez outlined some cost savings the district had been able to work into the budget over the past year and in preparation for next year. For 2019-20, this includes federal and state program position changes, formula-based staffing changes, and administrative staff changes for a total estimated savings of close to $3.5 million.
With some increased costs, including a state-mandated district increase to the state teacher retirement system and an estimated decrease of about 200 students over the past year, Martinez said Edgewood could have been back adopting a deficit budget without new state revenue and cost savings.
“Had we not implemented these savings, we would be right back to square one adopting a deficit budget,” Martinez said.
The Texas Education Agency is embarking on a rulemaking process to fill in all the administrative details for HB 3. District officials told the board Tuesday night that this process could take anywhere between six months and a year and could change some of the details discussed for the upcoming budget.