Fort Worth

Proposed Fort Worth school budget includes 3% raises

Fort Worth school administration building
Fort Worth school administration building Star-Telegram archives

Teachers and other Fort Worth school district employees would receive a 3 percent pay raise under a 2015-16 budget proposal released Tuesday night.

The raises are included in a $700 million preliminary budget, which also raises the pay of first-year teachers to $50,000 annually. The current starting salary is $48,300.

Trustees had asked administrators to look at raising starting teachers’ pay to compete better with area districts. Board members Ann Sutherland and Tobi Jackson said Tuesday that they support the 3 percent increase and higher starting salary.

“I’m very proud of the work that you’ve done, and I’d be happy to brag about it anywhere you tell me I should go,” Sutherland told administrators at Tuesday night’s regular board meeting.

A few Tarrant County school districts, such as Arlington, Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville, pay beginning teachers $50,000. The Hurst-Euless-Bedford district leads the area in beginning-teacher pay, at $52,750.

The pay increases and the boost in the starting salary would cost about $17.4 million, according to the preliminary budget.

The budget also includes expenditures of $21 million for more than 100 new hires, supplies and instructional materials. The district plans to open 12 additional pre-kindergarten classrooms in 2015-16, Chief Financial Officer Elsie Schiro told trustees Tuesday.

The raises and new expenditures would be paid for with an increase in state funding. The district would also take $21 million from its reserve fund.

The fund’s balance would be about $143 million for 2015-16.

District officials have indicated they will recommend a 3-cent tax rate increase for 2015-16. The district’s tax rate for 2014-15 was $1.322 per $100 valuation. If approved by trustees, the new rate would be $1.352, officials said.

The increase is needed to support the district’s debt fund, Schiro has said.

In November 2012, voters approved a $490 million bond package to build replacement schools, add pre-kindergarten classrooms, finish kitchen renovations and expand technology.

Before the bond election, “we indicated to the voters that this bond issuance should not exceed a 3-cent tax increase,” Schiro said.

The tax rate has two components: an interest and sinking rate used to retire debt, and a maintenance and operations rate used to pay salaries and operating costs.

“With this 3-cent tax increase, our new I&S tax rate would be 0.312 per $100 valuation,” Schiro said.

The average home value in the district is $108,162, according to the most recent figures from the Tarrant Appraisal District. With a rate of $1.352 per $100 valuation, the owner of a home of average value would pay $1,462 in taxes before exemptions — about $33 more than with the current rate.

Last year, the district projected that its reserve fund would climb to $181 million. But in August, it had to pull out about $40 million when a technological glitch caused an overpayment from the state. The district had to dip into the balance to repay the money.

District officials are required to finalize the 2015-16 budget by June 23.

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard

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