The NEISD Headquarters
NEISD has suspended basketball practice ands games due to COVID-19. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

North East Independent School District trustees approved a budget of almost $570 million Thursday night that includes a 3 percent raise for teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors as well as extra increases for teachers with more years in the classroom.

Under the budget, campus administrators and other professionals, instructional aides, campus paraprofessionals, custodians, central office administrators, auxiliary staff, and all other employees also will receive a 3 percent raise.

Four trustees voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the budget. Trustees Joseph Treviño, Terri Williams, and David Beyer were absent.

With the passage of House Bill 3, the Texas Legislature’s omnibus school finance reform bill, NEISD stands to gain about $22 million in new state revenue. The law requires districts to use at least 30 percent of new revenue toward compensation increases.

While the North East ISD American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which represents teachers in the district, requested a 7 percent raise, district leaders took a more conservative approach in budgeting for the 2019-20 year, citing uncertainty about the future availability of state funding.

“Those concerns are certainly understandable. However, there is always an unpredictability to funding, and we would still request that you consider a compensation increase larger than 3 percent,” said Tom Cummins, North East AFT’s executive director.

At a previous budget study session, interim Superintendent Sean Maika questioned what kind of state financial support would be available in the coming legislative sessions.

“I don’t think they have a sustainability plan,” Maika said. “[T]hat’s what has us concerned about spending it all today.”

Pay increases will cost NEISD roughly $14.5 million with everyone receiving a 3 percent pay increase and teachers with six to 15 years of classroom experience getting a $600 annual bonus, which equates to a 4.4 percent raise. Teachers with more than 16 years experience will get an additional $1,200 annually, the equivalent of a 5.2 percent pay increase.

So far, districts in San Antonio have proposed pay increases close to 3 percent for most district employees. On Monday, San Antonio ISD trustees also approved a budget with raises of at least 3 percent for all employees.

Speaking to the board, Cummins told trustees that districts throughout the state have gone higher; raises in El Paso, Humble, Austin, and Boerne ISDs have ranged from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Referencing feedback he has received from teachers, Cummins told the board that educators thought they would be getting a $5,000 raise and feel let down by the actual raises proposed.

At a recent budget study session, Maika said it would be hard to compare compensation increase plans because each district received different amounts of money from the Legislature and assesses different tax rates.

“It is truly the wild, wild west out there because everyone is getting vastly different money,” Maika said.

Choosing not to put all the increased revenue into pay raises, NEISD expects to put about $14 million into the district’s fund balance, or savings account.

About 87 percent of the total budget goes toward salaries and benefits. The size of the general fund increased about 2.9 percent over the last year.

The board approved a property tax rate of $1.29 per $100 of property value, a decrease of 7 cents over the previous year’s rate, made possible by a provision of House Bill 3 that decreases district’s property tax rates. However, because property values are expected to increase, NEISD Director of Budget and Financial Analysis Susan Lackorn said most taxpayers won’t notice much of a difference in their tax bills.

With the property tax rate decrease, NEISD expects to collect about 2 percent less in property tax revenue.

In 2018-19, NEISD trustees passed a budget that included a $23.4 million deficit. Throughout the year, the district saved enough to reduce the deficit to less than $300,000.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.