Based on a first look at the 2019-20 budget, Tyler Independent School District will be accomplishing several of its long-term goals with the extra funding coming from changes to school finance in the state, including $6 million to fund salary increases for all employees.

The Tyler ISD Board of Trustees took a look at the Proposed General Fund Budget for the 2019-20 school year during its monthly workshop meeting on Tuesday.

Tyler ISD, the region’s largest school district, will go into the new school year with a budget of more than $163 million, which includes a net funding increase of about $10.8 million. That increase comes from a boost in state funding and healthy property tax growth in the district.

As part of a tax swap compromise, the Texas Legislature agreed to increase its portion of school funding, while compressing property tax rates. The district’s maintenance and operation tax rate will drop from $1.04 per $100 of taxable value to 97 cents, with the district’s total tax rate falling from $1.405 per $100 of taxable value to $1.335. That figure includes the district’s interest and sinking rate, which is the portion taxpayers vote to raise during bond elections.

District Chief Financial Officer Tosha Bjork estimates the district will see a net increase of about 4.4 percent in taxable value across their taxable area, which covers the city of Tyler and large portions of Smith County.

How much of a difference it makes in individual tax bills depends on whether a home went up or down in value. The state also changed the levy from prior-year values to current-year values.

The state’s portion of funding will now comprise about 39.2 percent of the district’s budget and the local portion will account for 58.9 percent, which is a shift of 4-5 percent from the previous year.

While the actual state funding increase is $11.725 million, it is offset by a loss of $1.8 million due to the property tax compression.

The net increase in funds should allow the district to make up ground on priorities board members have made a focus over the past few years, including teacher pay, expanded summer learning and districtwide full-day pre-K.

Lawmakers mandated that 30% of the increase in state funding must go to teacher pay, which many districts are using for raises or to bring salaries up to new state minimum pay standards.

The district plans to spend $6 million on salary increases for all employees.

Starting teacher pay will increase from $42,000 to $44,250 and teachers with between one and five years of experience will see $2,500 raises. Teachers with six to 20 years of experience will receive $4,000 raises and teachers with more than 20 years will see $3,000 raises. For the past few years the district has spent about $3 million annually on $1,500 across-the-board teacher raises.

Administrative and professional staff will see 4% increases in salary, and annualized hourly staff and manual trades will see 6% raises.

Minimum and maximum pay for those positions also will be increased. The district will also try to incentivize bus drivers with 6% raises.

Tyler ISD employees will also be keeping far more of their raises than their peers in most school districts across the state thanks to the district’s self-funded health insurance plan. While employees will see a 5% increase in premiums, that is far lower than the state’s TRS health care. For example, a family on Tyler ISD’s Plan B will save $12,600 annually compared with the comparable TRS-AC Select plan. Tyler ISD’s premium hikes are about half the dollar amount of increases when comparing the district’s Plan B to the TRS-AC Select plan. An employee with insurance only for herself would save $4,356 annually compared with the TRS-AC Select plan.

Another big win for the board will come next summer as the partnership with The Mentoring Alliance expands to an additional two campuses, Boulter and Hubbard middle schools. The district will allocate an additional $500,000 to help fund those programs.

The district will also allocate $400,000 toward salaries for additional staff to roll out its full-day pre-K program and spend an additional $110,000 on instructional specialists for early literacy.

Some other areas may see increases with an additional $3 million allocated for state compensatory education funds, but the state has not yet finalized formulas for them. Last year the district used those funds for its alternative schools, hiring interventional specialists, master teachers and other support staff.

The district will hold a public hearing on its budget and tax rate at its Aug. 19 board meeting.

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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