Most, but not all, of the variance is likely explained by different data assumptions, TASBO’s Brownson said.
Because the Legislative Budget Board’s primary function is to make sure the state won’t overextend itself — with little concern about school district budgets — the board used an assumption that every district in the state would see property values grow in 2019 at the comptroller’s statewide estimate of 5.76%, Brownson said.
“And we know that’s not true, but it’s a reasonable way to estimate,” she said.
With so much uncertainty still out there, some districts are passing budgets this month, knowing they’ll revise them over the summer once details surrounding the new law become more clear.
Garland ISD, under Ringo’s guidance, recently passed its budget and tax rate, but did so under the old funding formulas.
Districts with a fiscal year starting in September are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Irving ISD is expected to present its final salary pay scales to its board of trustees in August, said Valerie Reyes-Braun, the district’s assistant director of communications.
Mesquite ISD’s Kathryn Bohling, assistant superintendent for business services, said her district is waiting on the rules from the state.
The TEA has launched a website exclusively addressing HB3 and is sending out near-daily communication to districts. It has created an email hotline to answer school administrators’ pressing questions.
On Thursday, the agency launched a weekly series focused on the legislation, releasing the first of 20 videos.
“We’re getting the information out there as quickly as we can,” TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said.
Even so, the correspondence from the TEA to school districts emphasizes that the “legal responsibility for determining accurate revenue estimates rests with each individual school district and charter school, which should consult with their attorneys when making their own estimates of the revenue provided under the bill.”
Essentially, you break it, you buy it.
Out of all the years of doing budgets, Ringo said, this cycle is definitely one of the most stressful.
Are teachers getting their payday?
The confusion around budgets is mirrored by teachers’ uncertainty about their pay raises. The two issues are related.
According to the new law, districts and charters must use 30% of their new formula funding for compensation increases for non-administrative staff. Of that slice, 75% must go to teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians — prioritizing compensation for classroom teachers with five or more years of experience.
The remaining quarter from the 30% would go to other employees, such as support staff — excluding those in administration.
Schools can count increases in benefits, such as bigger contributions to insurance premiums, as compensation. Frisco ISD, for example, will be able to count $1.8 million it is spending on increased medical premium contributions — offering $25 more per month for each employee.
It’s all far less cut and dried than what many teachers were expecting. There is a contingent of educators who are still looking for a proposed $5,000 raise that was debated during the legislative session.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed for an across-the-board $5,000 base pay raise not long after winning reelection, and the Texas Senate passed a bill and a budget in the spring that would have offered the same. But the concept didn’t survive conference committee negotiations with the Texas House.
At his mom’s 80th birthday party, Ringo, Garland’s top financial officer, had to break the news to his relatives — many of them educators from across the state: The $5,000 raise didn’t come to fruition.
It didn’t make him the most popular person at the party.
“Well, they accused me of being wrong at first,” he said, laughing.
Districts that have finalized their pay raises “have been all over the place,” said Rob D’Amico, communications director for Texas AFT, a statewide teacher organization.
Two districts in the Houston area recently made waves in announcing their plans.
In order to stay competitive with surrounding districts, Sheldon ISD has offered 10% to 15% salary increases for teachers, with a minimum increase of $6,000.
Barbers Hill ISD, east of Houston, raised its starting teacher salary to $60,000, becoming the first district in the state to reach that mark, according to Superintendent Greg Poole.
Most districts in the Dallas area have been more conservative.
Plano ISD — which is running a deficit budget in 2019-20 — will offer a 2.5% pay raise to teachers with fewer than six years of experience, and a 3% increase to those with six or more years.
Richardson ISD teachers will receive a salary increase starting at 3.5% and climbing to 5%, based on experience. Both districts raised their starting salary for first-year teachers to $54,000.