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El Campo ISD trustees approved a proposed tax rate for 2019-2020 that is 8 cents lower than last year’s rate as mandated by House Bill 3 (HB3) at Tuesday’s meeting.

Trustees also approved raises for teachers and staff, along with administrators (raises for administration were not a part of the new school finance bill).

“I feel a lot better this week than I did last week now that I’ve gotten my questions answered (from Texas Education Agency),” said David Bright, assistant superintendent of finance, at a budget workshop held before the regular meeting.

“The numbers look real good,” he added.

During the workshop, Bright said the preliminary budget is expected to generate $37,366,306 in revenue (local, state, federal) — a number based on increased state funding and the state mandated compression of the tax rate.

The proposed budget of $33,791,541 includes $550,000 to replace high mileage buses and $61,200 for technology. Calculations for the final proposed budget will be considered for approval by the trustees at the August regular scheduled board meeting.

Bright reported a $3.5 million surplus in the general fund.

Bright gave trustees five proposed total tax rates to choose from ranging from $1.10 to $1.14, and trustees went with the middle option.

The district is proposing to decrease the tax rate by 8 cents (the state average) to a total of $1.12 per $100,000 valuation. The proposed tax rate is broken down into two parts: a state-mandated compressed rate of $1.0684 on the maintenance and operations side down from $1.17, and 0.058 cents on the interest and sinking rate or debt side, an increase of two pennies from last year.

“It’s a very unique situation we’re in where we are able to lower our tax rate and at the same time we’re able to bring in a little bit more money,” Bright said.

“One of the state’s goals for HB3 was to give taxpayers relief, so it’s important we consider doing that for our taxpayers,” he added.

Both the tax rate and budget require a public hearing before receiving final approval. The board set a public hearing for 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 27.

Bright estimates the district will gain about $4.4 million in increased revenue due to HB3.

Of that amount, $1.3 million will go to raises with $998,900 used for salary increases for teachers, librarians, counselors and school nurses. The law mandates emphasis be placed on teachers with six plus years experience.

Raises for teachers already employed with the district range from 7.1 percent to 8.3 percent depending on years of experience with those amounts ranging from $3,200 to $5,000.

The new compensation and benefits plan will set the base annual salary for beginning full-time teachers at $46,000 up from $43,500 which is a 5.7 percent increase. It tops off at $62,272 for a teacher with 40 years experience.

“Every district was unique in the money they have to put toward salaries,” said board president James Russell. “It’s a percentage of the money you’re getting. Different school districts got different amounts of money to play with.”

An amount of $334,689 is going to other full-time employees (clerical, manual trade), which represents a 2 percent structure adjustment and a general pay increase of almost 8 percent.

Administrators, after a 2 percent structure adjustment, will receive a 3 percent general pay increase for a total cost of $120,000.

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