By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 18, 2015) — It’s a day Stephenville ISD administrators and trustees deserve to celebrate.
After administrators worked throughout the summer calculating and recalculating, after trustees met in budget workshops and open meetings and knocked out all the necessary legal formalities, they can finally put one of their largest obstacles of the year behind them.
On Monday, trustees will meet at noon and vote to make official the 2015-16 budget and tax rates for SISD.
Then they take a deep breath, relax for a whole second and begin educating the public on the next order of business – a tax ratification election.
The “tax swap” as it is informally known, gives trustees the opportunity to set a higher maintenance and operations tax, then ask voters to approve a measure allowing the school district to pull that money from its interest and sinking taxes rather than increase the total taxes charged to property owners within the district.
That means, regardless how it appears on paper, taxes will not rise $0.13 for every $100 in property valuation. As long as the measure is approved on the November ballot, taxes will remain the same while SISD will receive approximately $360,000 in additional state funding because Texas matches more on the operations side of school finance than on the debt side.
Matt Underwood has made technology resources a top priority since being named SISD superintendent a year ago, and says the additional state funding has been earmarked for student technology as the district undergoes a 1:1 project, offering some grade levels – and eventually every student, Underwood hopes – a computer for every student.
These and other projects were all among the mass of considerations made by administrators and trustees while preparing the proposed budget, which totals more than $27.7 million. Almost $17 million – 58 percent – of that is dedicated to instruction, largely covering payroll for teachers and staff.
The following chart and graph were displayed at the regular August board meeting Monday, when Debbie Hummell, the district’s executive director for finance and operations, made a detailed presentation to trustees.
The physical plant and maintenance departments supporting the district are its largest expense outside instruction, costing more than $3.1 million. Other expenditures by function over $1 million include extra-curricular activities at almost $1.6 million, school leadership including campus leadership payroll at almost $1.4 million and student transportation at a little more than $1.2 million.
If expenditure and revenue projections hold true, SISD will finish fiscal year 2015-16 with its highest general fund balance to end any year. The projected ending balance for 2014-15 is more than $10.6 million, with projections calling for 2015-16 to end with almost $11.5 million.
From a taxing standpoint, SISD has charged less than $1.25 per $100 valuation since 2008-09, and that will continue as long as voters pass the tax ratification election in November. The district charged $1.66 per $100 valuation in 2006-07 and $1.5199 in 2007-08.
In addition to traditional costs and activities to be funded, administrators and trustees carefully considered the following strategic impact areas in calculating 2015-16 budgets.