It's a bit of a gamble, but the Texas State Legislature should have learned one thing by now when it comes to the Mansfield Independent School District, (MISD) - never bet against them.
During its meeting Tuesday night, MISD approved its budget for the coming year with a few uncertainties, particularly as it relates to ongoing protests regarding tax value increases.
"We still have quite a few that are protesting," said Dr. Karen Wiesman, the district's associate superintendent of business and finance. "Originally, there was 9,800 protests totaling $4.1 billion in protested values. We've currently settled 6,800 of the protests leaving around $1.5 billion in protested values."
She said, in light of that, using 15 percent value of what was left on the protested values, which is closer to the actual appraisals, the district has the revenue it’s looking for.
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"The goal for the district was to maintain three months worth of operations in the fund balance," Wiesman said. "We've been trying to adopt a budget within 102 percent of revenues with revised information that we just received. We also want to provide a pay increase to remain competitive and retain staff."
As it stands, the budget includes a 2 percent raise to MISD employees at the pay grade midpoint. The budget also features an expansion of the district’s orchestra program to sixth-graders, 16 growth positions and six contingency positions.
All total, the 2017-18 general operating budget totals $286.4 million. Debt service is $55.9 million. The budget for student nutrition, which is not funded through local tax dollars, was also approved for $18.2 million with no increase in student meal prices.
"I appreciate Dr. Wiesman's hard work, this does represent a balanced budget," Superintendent Jim Vaszauska said. "We didn't anticipate the information the State Legislature was going to present. They recommended a $1,000 teacher salary raise with no additional revenues to the district."
Vaszauska said they would monitor the State during their upcoming special session and see what happens.
"It's our understanding the 2-percent salary increase at the mid-point would meet the requirement in the event the legislature requires us to do this without added revenues," Vaszauska said. "The other thing I'd like to point out is once tax appraisals are complete, we'll have a better idea on the tax rate.”
Vaszauska mentioned the legislature reduced monies the state was contributing to education by $1.5 billion because of tax appraisal increases.
"I want to remind everyone, all of us living in Mansfield ISD pay taxes, too," he said. "Our appraisals have gone up, and we're suffering from the same sticker shock."
He said as local contributions rise, state funding lowers.
School board president Raul Gonzales encouraged those attending the meeting to contact their legislators.
"MISD will again operate with a surplus rather than a deficit," Gonzales said. "That said, the school funding system has been broken for years. Our legislators, in both parties, as well as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott haven't been able to repair it. This causes budget problems across the state and Mansfield is not immune. I urge you contact your legislator and demand it get repaired."
The tax rate is scheduled to go for approval at the regular board meeting on August 29.
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274