Keller — At a special meeting Thursday, Keller trustees approved a $249.5 million budget for 2014-15 that includes a 3 percent raise for all employees and additional teachers, counselors and materials to implement the provisions of House Bill 5.The tax rate remains unchanged at $1.04 for daily operations and 50 cents for bond debt, both at the state maximum.District officials plan to spend about 4 percent more than they spent in the previous year, which ended Aug. 31, and to pull about $9.3 million from savings.Last year’s budget was approved with an $11.3 million deficit, but administrators estimate the actual deficit at $6.3, allowing $5 million to go back into district coffers. The primary reason behind the difference was that the state gave schools more money during the year.“We did have a positive ruling on the lawsuit today, but it will probably be another two years before we get a solution,” said Superintendent Randy Reid.Officials plan to eventually draw down the KISD fund balance, now at about $78 million, to get it to the state-recommended 20 percent of operating costs, of $50 million.“It’s a gradual draw down to get through this slow period,” Reid said.This year’s budget reflects additional revenue from property tax growth and higher state and federal funding for the district growth, more students taking career training courses and changing demographics. Officials project about $10 million more in revenue than 2013-14.On the spending side, the raise will cost about $5 million, implementing the eight period day about $2.5 million and another $1.8 million for more counselors, special needs and bilingual teachers and subject area coordinators and trainers. House Bill 5 requires districts to provide more options in career and technical education for high school students.While higher property values don’t help much on the operating side, they do boost the capacity to pay off debt. Officials expect about $8 million added to the savings on the bond debts account and can use that money to pay off old debts and increase the amount they borrow in the next bond without raising taxes, said Mark Youngs, chief financial officer.“Principal and interest payments are going down because of the refundings,” Youngs said.Voters will go to the polls Nov. 4 to decide the fate of a $169.5 million bond package. If approved, the tax rate would not go up as it is already at the state-maximum 50 cents for bond indebtedness.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland