What a difference 10 days make.
The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) Board of Trustees convened for the first time with newly-appointed Superintendent Pedro Martinez in attendance and Patti Radle presiding over her first full meeting as board president. From the uneventful Pledge of Allegiance to the completion of a budget workshop one hour later, the agenda and the collective mood was light and collegial on Monday evening.
District CFO Larry Garza presented a brief 2015-16 budget overview. Public school funding promises to be incrementally better for the coming academic year. A modest increase in property exemptions was approved by the Texas Legislature and is estimated to be worth about $125 for the average homeowner, but lawmakers also added $2 billion to HB1, the education funding legislation, which could translate to a $10 million increase for SAISD.
The modest tax break will be offset in Bexar County by an 11% rise in property valuations. Appeals by commercial and residential property owners will bring that percentage down some, but SAISD could see its annual operating budget grow from $420 million in the 2014-15 academic year to $440 million in the 2015-16 academic year.
The final numbers matter because public education is funded by property taxes in Texas.
The projected short-term budget growth could be temporary. Garza predicted a decrease in state funding in the 2016-17 academic year. That, and anticipated increases in health care spending, will probably lead trustees to hold some of the new revenues in reserve.
Trustees informally expressed unanimous support for establishing a onetime $4 million reserve fund in the 2015-16 academic year that Superintendent Martinez and his staff, working with school principals, will be able to draw from to pay for individual academic initiatives on a campus-by-campus basis. Any unspent money, Martinez said, would stay in the general fund.
Martinez also said partnership programs, such as CityYear, Communities in Schools and Teach for America, will be maintained at current funding levels, and evaluated throughout the coming year. Outgoing Superintendent Sylvester Perez surprised some by proposing substantial cuts in the programs in his very last days in office, without public debate or input from the partners. That effort failed.
Trustees also reviewed previously announced plans to raise teacher salaries, with the new minimum salary increasing from $49,000 this academic year to $50,000 next year. A onetime longevity bonus of $500 will be paid to all full-time employees upon completion of 15 years of service in the district.
If other Bexar County districts move forward with salary schedules as currently projected, this will elevate SAISD into a tie for fifth among the 17 local districts for teacher pay. SAISD teacher salaries ranked 15th in 2012-13, rose to sixth in 2013-14, seventh this academic year, and, come September, will be fifth. If other districts decide to raise salaries, it could effect SAISD’s ranking.
The district tracks teacher pay against the county’s other two major districts, Northside and Northeast. Northside ISD is currently second with starting salaries of $51,085 and Northeast ISD is tied for fifth. The smaller Southwest ISD offers the highest starting teacher pay at $51,434. Again, in the case of other districts, the salaries are projected numbers at this point.
Other SAISD employees will get a 2.5% increase.
Citizens interested in the budgeting process can attend a public meeting later this month with formal approval of the budget scheduled for the June 24 school board meeting.
*Top image: (File photo) The SAISD Board on May 4, 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.