During its May 5 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board:
- Celebrated the success at Reagan Elementary during Spotlight on Learning.
- Discussed the Proposed 2022-23 Budget Along With A Revised Compensation Plan.
- Heard a presentation on the annexation of part of the Larkspur subdivision.
- Received Results from the BrightBytes survey.
Spotlight on Learning: Reagan Elementary
Great things are happening at Reagan Elementary. Our Spotlight on Learning features students in leadership and No Place for Hate representatives. They have had opportunities to volunteer and plan awareness events. Through taking initiative, they’re serving their campus through safety patrol and presenting the morning announcements. Most of all, students appreciate Reagan for creating a safe and innovative learning environment filled with encouraging teachers.
Supt. Gearing Explains 2022-23 Budget Scenario That Enables Revised Compensation Plan
In an effort to help illustrate a “Texas-sized” problem of #1LISD’s financial situation and budget, Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D., encouraged the Board to look at the issue like a football quarterback examining the field of play.
“You’ve got to be aware of the 300-pound challengers trying to tackle you, plus pay attention to where the district needs to be in the future,” Gearing said.
Gearing explained that there are funds being used from Maintenance & Operations (M&O) towards Major Maintenance projects that could move to the Interest & Sinking (I&S) portion of our tax rate, which amounts to roughly $4-million along with another $1 million in portable expenditures. Moving approximately $5-million dollars out of the operations budget gives the district more capacity to provide salary increases from M&O. The revised compensation plan offers 5% teacher raises, 4% raises for staff and raises the minimum pay rate to $15/hour.
Human Resources staff presented how the plan would take effect, offering 2% pay raises across the board. If voters approve a Voter-Approved Tax Rate Election (VATRE) in November, teachers would receive an additional 3% raise, while staff would get a 2% raise.
“I do think it’s critical to pass the VATRE,” Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D., said. “I realize it’s scary and risky, but I also think it’s a risk to not give the bulk of raises now. If the VATRE fails, it’s going to hurt either way. If we invest in our teachers now, it shows our teachers we believe in you, we support you. Now, go be champions for this election.”
The district is facing a $35.7-million budget deficit next fiscal year. Offering pay raises before a successful VATRE would force the district to make tough choices if it failed. The VATRE is projected to bring the district up to $31 million in additional revenues which makes more significant pay increases possible.
“When we look at raising salaries, that’s a recurring, a long-term commitment at a time when we don’t have the money to fund past maybe the first year,” Board trustee Aaron Johnson said. “That’s a financial reality that creates questions for me. However, I have always approached these discussions from a market and competitive perspective. If we don’t remain competitive, we have a long-term problem with recruitment and retention and we can’t allow that to happen.”
Including the revised compensation plan, Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn presented a revised budget that includes asking voters to take 9 pennies from I&S and add them in M&O to fund teacher salaries, programs and other operating costs. Under House Bill 3, the tax rate would decrease due to higher property values however, the district could lower the I&S rate even more resulting in a lower property tax rate for homeowners to help offset rising property values.
With regards to the housing market, Cogburn also shared details of our historic rise in property values. Leander ISD’s tax base has more than doubled over the last ten years. For the first time in several years, local property taxes are subject to recapture.
“When I think about the advocacy piece, there are more things that need to happen with our workforce recruitment and retention beyond what Leander ISD can provide,” Board President Trish Bode said. “There are so many other driving forces that are impacting our people with inflation and affordability. We have a lot more work to do as a Board.”
The Board approved revised budget assumptions that do not make the full 5%/4% pay contingent on VATRE approval.
The Board will take action on the full compensation plan at its May 19 meeting. Members also approved calling a public meeting to adopt the 2022-23 budget on Thursday, June 23.
Larkspur Community Seeks Annexation into Leander ISD
Trustees are considering annexing part of the Larkspur subdivision into Leander ISD from Liberty Hill ISD. Administrators presented information on the proposed boundary change. Currently, the change would impact 37 students. However, growth projections indicate as many as 315 students could eventually live in the area. During the May 19 meeting, the Board will vote on a resolution.
BrightBytes Survey Results Shared with Board
The Board received the results of the online survey tool BrightBytes to measure the effectiveness of technology use in the classroom. Connected to #1LISD’s Graduate Profile, the survey measures growth in collaboration, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and citizenship, known as the five Cs. Offered to third-grade through twelfth-grade students and teachers, overall results rated Leander ISD as advanced on a maturity scale that highlight’s the district’s technology readiness and use across different domains. This data will help inform the district’s strategic plan and graduate profile as well as bolster professional development.