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The Tyler ISD administrative offices building, 1319 Earl Campbell Parkway, is pictured on Wednesday Aug. 29, 2018. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Tyler ISD will see a net gain of about $7.5 million in annual funding for the coming year, money that will go toward full day pre-K, teacher pay and school security, among other things.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law HB3, the school finance bill that will see districts receiving an increase of about 20 percent in average daily attendance (ADA) funding to help accomplish many of the state-mandated changes.

Districts will have to carve out 30 percent of that increase for raises, and 75 percent of the allocation for raises must go to teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians, according to Texas Education Agency data. The remainder is set aside to be used for raises at the district’s discretion.

Districts also will be required to boost minimum pay, which goes up for each year of experience. Districts already struggling to pay teachers may see a substantial portion of their ADA increase go toward just meeting the state’s new minimum salary scale.

Tyler ISD serves about 18,000 students and employs 2,600 people, half of which are teachers.

Tyler ISD’s Chief Financial Officer Tosha Bjork estimates the portion set aside for teacher pay will total about $3.3 million for Tyler ISD, with $2.475 million going to the mandated pay increases. Bjork said that leaves the floor for raises at at least $1,609 for teachers with five years or less experience and at least $2,177 for teachers with six or more years. That leaves $825,000 to be spent at the district’s discretion.

For the past few years the district has given $1,500 raises to all teachers.

Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford said he and other superintendents are concerned that this funding increase could be changed or discontinued in the next biennium. He said that possibility would leave districts in a very bad position, and facing possible layoffs or pay cuts.

Crawford said he is hoping lawmakers will allow districts to issue increases as stipends rather than straightforward raises, that way districts still can put more money in the pockets of teachers, without worrying about their payroll becoming unmanageable if lawmakers reduce or discontinue funding when they reconvene in 2021.

Crawford said Tyler ISD educators also will fare better than those in other districts because their insurance is self funded, and ends up being cheaper than the state’s plan used by most districts.

For homeowners, the funding changes could result in lower tax bills. Tyler ISD’s base property tax rate for maintenance and operations is $1.04 per $100 of taxable value. Under the changes in HB3, that rate will drop to 97 cents per $100 of taxable value. The changes to the state’s property tax valuation increase cap will not go into effect until 2021.

The bill will see property tax rates across the state drop by an average of 8 cents in 2020 and 13 cents in 2021.

To offset the loss of local funding, the state has committed to increasing its portion of funding. Currently, the state provides about 38 percent of the district’s funding, that number will increase to around 45 percent. The result is a net gain of about $7.5 million when state and local funding are accounted for.

While the district will have some discretion as to where they can apply that funding, lawmakers have sent down some mandatory items they consider priorities.

Programs that will benefit from the mandatory increases include pre-K programs, special education, school security and career and technology programs.

The pre-K funding increase will be enough to help Tyler ISD launch districtwide full day pre-K at all of its elementary schools. Crawford will ask the board to approve full day pre-K at 16 of the district’s 17 elementary campuses at the June 17 board meeting. Caldwell Arts Academy, which is expanding to eventually become a K-8 campus, will not have a pre-K program.

The district’s total funding from state and local sources should end up at about $147.7 million.

In 2021, the state will start limiting school districts’ growth in property tax revenue, according to the Texas Tribune. Districts with property values growing more than 2.5 percent will see their tax rates automatically lowered to regulate tax revenue growth, according to the Texas Tribune’s analysis of the bill. The state also is switching from using prior year property tax valuations to current year valuations.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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