During its April 22 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board collaborated on a district mission statement, approved a guaranteed maximum price to begin construction on Elementary School 29, and continued planning for the 2021–22 budget, including:
- Board approves an additional use of fund balance up to $10,000,506 to avoid staff reductions and provide a 2% pay increase for employees for 2021-22 school year;
- District dives into compensation plan discussion;
- Trustees approve major maintenance funding, maximum price for ES 29; and
- Strategic planning, mission building continues.
Board adjusts budget strategy to avoid staff reductions for 2021-22 school year
The district will be able to continue planning for the 2021-22 school year without considering staffing cuts after the Board approved the additional use of up to $10 million of fund balance.
The district ended the 2019-2020 fiscal year with a record level of fund balance and the Board chose to preserve positions and programs through the use of these funds.
With uncertainty looming around the pandemic, enrollment growth, and the state’s distribution plan for federal stimulus funding, Trustees opted to commit fund balance to cover additional costs, assuming the district does not receive federal stimulus dollars or enrollment doesn’t hit the projected number reported by our demographic partner.
“Trustees choosing this option speaks volumes for the type of district we envision for our students, teachers and staff,” Board President Trish Bode said. “This was not a normal year, but we are encouraged that in-person learning is increasing and that our community is focused on accelerating learning. The hope is that federal stimulus funding will be released to the districts so we can continue to cultivate the very best learning environments. In the meantime, it is important that we put forth a plan that helps make it a reality regardless.”
Without the adjustment to the budget planning, we faced budget cuts totaling as much as $10 million. Trustees shared concerns regarding a long term dependency on fund balance for recurring costs and the future for enrollment after the pandemic.
As a result of the state’s new school finance system and tax comprehension, Trustees will need to discuss long term strategies for managing revenue in response to the new model.
The district has committed to strategically hiring new positions until we realize enrollment, minimizing the risk of overstaffing. It is essential for our families to register as soon as possible so we can hire new teachers as needed.
District dives into compensation plan discussion
The Human Resources team presented a salary and pay rate plan for the next school year that keeps Leander ISD as one of the top-paying Austin-area districts for teachers and instructional staff.
Staff recommends a 2% of midpoint ($1,138 for Teachers/Librarians, RNs and Counselors) across-the-board increase for all employees. In addition, Chief Human Resources Officer Karielynn McSpadden presented several options for an additional 1% raise to all employees should certain mid-year benchmarks related to enrollment or if pandemic-related federal relief funding materialize.
“We grossly under-pay, as a nation and a society, our teachers,” Trustee Jim MacKay said. “We want to do what we can to continue to reward our educators and find creative ways to support their needs.”
In their discussion, Trustees shared ideas around a one-time payment to cover classroom expenses and a 3% raise for the entire school year versus waiting for various thresholds to be met.
As part of our annual compensation plans, we conduct in-depth salary scale reviews on a rotating basis. This year we reviewed the Office/Paraprofessional and Auxiliary scales and are recommending additional modifications to the scales with a cost of $1 million. This recommendation will improve these scales’ market position and stay within the current budget assumptions.
Trustees will consider action at their May 6 meeting.
Trustees approve major maintenance funding, maximum price for ES 29
The district’s maintenance and operations budget is seeing a decline in revenues due to lower enrollment numbers. To help fill the gap in major maintenance projects funding, Trustees opted to allocate $3.5 million of bond project savings existing within the 2017 bond program to fund eligible maintenance projects through June 30, 2022. The Board intends to evaluate the status of the major maintenance fund on an annual basis.
The Board approved staff’s recommendation to move forward with the construction of Elementary 29 to ensure the campus is ready to open for the 2022–23 school year. Construction is set to begin this Spring, with funding by the 2017 Bond Authorization at a guaranteed maximum price of $10,146,000. The school will be located near the Bryson subdivision in Leander. Trustees approved a zoning plan for ES 29 in February.
Strategic planning, mission building continues
Trustees joined our district leadership team to continue collaboration around the district’s mission and strategic planning, starting with their adoption of the Leander ISD Core Beliefs and District Vision Statement. These efforts will continue in the coming months, in addition to the redesign of the Graduate Profile.