KISD trustees to vote on biggest budget yet

Posted Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The proposed Keller district budget for 2013-14 is the biggest yet, thanks to more funds from the state and trustees’ willingness to dip into savings.

The school board is scheduled to vote Aug. 29 on a $229.8 million budget for daily operations, a 6.2 percent increase compared to last year and 15.6 percent higher than two years ago. If approved, the budget would have a deficit of just under $11.3 million. The deficit for the current year is estimated at almost $13.8 million.

Much of the deficit comes from items restored to the budget after dramatic cuts were made in 2011.

“We’re in better shape, but we’re still going to be dipping into reserves,” said Board President Jim Stitt. “The problem comes with putting additional money in the right spot. It’s almost as hard putting money back in as it was taking it out.”

Trustees opted to give 3 percent raises to all district employees at a cost of $5 million and made modest reductions in class sizes, upgraded aging technology, restored some funds to athletics, fine arts and libraries and added back some curriculum department and operations staff positions. Officials also approved a $1.4 million contribution to defray rising health care costs. Even with the support, employees will pay about 20 percent more in insurance premiums in 2014.

Mark Youngs, chief financial officer, said state funding for Keller schools increased due to a partial restoration of 2011 cutbacks and revisions to the per-student target revenue amount. A few years ago, Keller received about $4,800 per student and now will get about $5,100. Youngs noted that some surrounding districts still get $500 to $1,000 more per student than Keller.

“We’re very pleased about the changes, but there are still a number of inequities in the system,” Youngs said.

The district also benefits from continued enrollment growth. Officials expect 300 to 400 new students in the 2013-14 school year. At last count, enrollment was about 33,400.

For this past year, KISD received about $81 million in state revenue; officials project the district will get about $94 million for 2013-14. Most of the remaining revenue comes from local property taxes. Already at the $1.04 limit for operations and 50 cents for bond debt, there is no increase in the proposed tax rate.

The district’s savings account, or fund balance, is currently at about $83 million. Once the 2012-13 and 2013-14 deficits are deducted, the fund balance would be about $58 million. Youngs said that officials want to annually reduce what they are taking from savings in the next few years and maintain the account at 20 percent of the operating budget, or about $45 million.

Officials are looking forward to the resolution of the lawsuit filed by school districts opposing the state education funding formula, but it may take a while for a new plan to be approved by the state legislature. And new doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Stitt said, “The Legislature messed it up the last time, and we don’t have any assurance that they will get it right this time.”

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