Board discusses options for compensation, budget for 2020-21 school year

As May winds down, planning for August ramps up for Leander ISD. During the May 19, 2020, Special Called Meeting to discuss budget and employee compensation, Trustees weighed the options for increasing salary and improving benefits for teachers and staff.

Review the agenda here. Watch the meeting here

Trustees discuss the compensation plan for 2020-21 

The LISD administration presented three pay and salary increase options for teachers and employees in the 2020–21 school year. Those three options were:

Trustees discussed the long term ramifications of approving a salary increase with unknown state funding after the Texas legislature returns to the Capitol in January to set a biennium budget for 2022-2023. 

“Our teachers don’t make enough money, at the end of the day,” Trustee Jim MacKay said. “I’d like to strongly advocate at the state level, but we also have to understand the state is experiencing a significant drop in revenue. I would like to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

In addition to the salary increases, LISD is planning for another year without an increase in health care premiums for the district’s health plan, while also adding a zero premium cost plan to go alongside the current Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas plans. The district can maintain current premiums, and reduce in some plans, while expanding options, thanks to a $1 million budget item presented to the Board for the self-funded plan. 

“We are proud to provide a total compensation plan that treats our employees as the best in Central Texas,” Board President Trish Bode said. “We’re so proud of the work in our benefits program to bring options and choices while maintaining quality and a second consecutive year without increasing premiums.”

The district recommended the one-time lump payment option, where all employees could earn the equivalent of a 2% salary increase in one payment, contingent upon certain economic and enrollment conditions. While a salary increase could be the better option for employees nearing retirement, the one-time payment option gives the Board more time to evaluate the district’s financial position by seeing whether enrollment growth continues.

The 2020–21 budget comes one year after the Board granted a historic salary increase of over 7% for teachers and 4% for other staff.

The compensation plan is included in the May 21 agenda as a possible action item

District considers future in planning 2020–21 budget

The Board is considering adjusted revenue projections, reviewing a three-year outlook, and expecting to decrease taxes as part of its 2020–2021 budget adoption

With uncertain times for enrollment growth, tax collections, state funding, and other revenues outside of tax collections, Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn asked the Board to amend its budget parameters, which it uses to establish revenue models for fiscal planning. The changes in parameters included an adjustment to property valuations, matching the April-certified values by Travis and Williamson County appraisal districts. The adjustments also include reducing the expected interest income, tax collections, and fees collected for facility rentals, technology fees, and advertising. 

In helping to weather a potential state reduction to funding in 2021, the district expects to add $18 million to fund balance for 2019-20, increasing the total balance to $168.6 million. 

The Board was also presented with information on how the 2020-2021 budget would affect fund balance through 2023. Without adjustments to costs and programs, those projections show the district’s fund balance could dip below the Board required level of two months of operating expenses.

“We built this budget knowing that next year, we will be facing a traumatic experience with students and staff coming back after the closure of our buildings and forced, emergency remote learning,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. said. “As a fast-growth district, we have the luxury of being able to staff on our moderate enrollment growth projections, and if we don’t hit those projections in the first year, we can readjust and protect our active staff members by reducing the budget through attrition.”

As part of HB 3 passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019, the district’s maintenance and operating (M&O) tax rate is projected to decrease by an additional $0.02, setting it at $1.42 per $100 valuation. This would be the third consecutive year for tax rate reductions. The decline in tax collections based on a lower tax rate is offset with additional state aid.

The district must adopt a budget before June 30, and a tax rate by September 30.