In a special called meeting July 31, the Weatherford ISD Board of Trustees got its first look at the 2017-18 budget and set the proposed tax rate.
Tracy Ray, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance, said the proposed budget includes $75,724,104 of estimated revenue, which includes tax collections, state funding, federal revenue and other items.
Expenditures total $80,243,816, of which approximately $56.2 million is payroll. Included in that $56.2 million is the addition of transportation employees and several new positions totaling around $2 million. Also included is a proposed compensation increase of 3 percent and an additional $432,503 because of increased costs in employee health insurance and TRS On Behalf and TRS Care benefits.
Overall, the district’s projected end-of-year fund balance is estimated to be around $18 million, which hovers around three months of operating budget.
On the debt service side, known as Interest and Sinking (I&S), Ray said she proposed a decrease of almost a cent and a half from .299 to .284. Doing so still allows the district to make its required bond payment and offer savings to homeowners at the same time.
A couple of board members questioned whether keeping it the same would offer the district any benefit. Ray said eventually it would but that 2025 would be the earliest the district could "do something with it."
"We’re in a blessed situation," she said. "When it comes to school finance, it’s either feast or famine and it was definitely famine when I first got here."
After further discussion and clarification from Ray that no funds from I&S can used for the maintenance and operation (M&O) of the district, trustees decided to propose a tax rate of $1.454 ($1.17 M&O and .284 I&S) per $100 valuation.
A public hearing on the proposed tax rate will be held at 7 p.m. on August 14 at the District Services Building.
Also at the meeting, the board approved the purchase of bus cameras totaling approximately $128,018 for 55 buses. Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks explained that when the district bought the buses back in August 2016, a camera system was installed but that it was insufficient in keeping up with the district’s needs. WISD was able to get a refund on the cameras and selected a new system that includes four cameras on each bus with capabilities to download video via a wireless network as needed.
Hanks said an additional feature is that a driver can hit a "hot button" if he or she suspects something is going on and the system will capture the previous 90 seconds as well as the ensuing 90 seconds so an incident can be reviewed.
Board members unanimously approved the contract with Rush Bus Center and cameras will be installed by the time school begins later this month.