Trustees are expected to finalize a budget Tuesday that hits taxpayers with a 3-cent tax rate increase and includes almost $40 million in expenditures for new hires and employee raises.
The state is providing the Fort Worth school district with more than $17 million in new revenue, which is expected to cover 3 percent employee raises and an increase to $50,000 a year for beginning teachers.
But school district officials are going to have to dip into the fund balance, money set aside as reserves, to cover a 2015-16 budget in which expenditures exceed revenues by the millions. The tax rate increase is needed to repay the debt incurred with the district’s $490 million bond approved by voters in November 2012.
“We haven’t seen the final version,’’ board President Jacinto Ramos said. “But I’m going to be very pleased that we could give raises and that the majority of our money is going back into the classroom.”
At least two other board members — Tobi Jackson and Ann Sutherland — indicated support for the preliminary budget when it was unveiled earlier this month.
District officials expect to pull $19 million from the fund balance to support expenditures estimated at more than $716 million.
Those expenditures include hiring more than 165 full-time employees to handle projected student growth of 750 students, school officials said.
The additional revenue also would be used for support materials, supplies and technology associated with new classrooms and new students. The district plans to open 12 new pre-kindergarten classrooms in 2015-16.
All told, expenditures needed to cover program growth amounting to about $21 million, Chief Financial Officer Elsie Schiro said. Total expenditures are $697 million, under the budget proposal.
A state increase in the district’s basic allottment from $5,040 per child to $5,140 will cover a portion of the additional costs, Schiro said.
Fort Worth pays beginning teachers less than some area districts, so district officials say the increase to $50,000 a year is needed to compete.
Arlington, Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville pay beginning teachers $50,000. The Hurst-Euless-Bedford district starts teachers out at $52,750.
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 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.
The increase is needed to help pay off the district’s debt, Schiro has said.
The 2012 bond package was intended 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.
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’s fund’s balance is estimated to be about $144 million for 2015-16. It is within the state-recommended 12 to 20 percent of operating costs.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705
If you go
What: Fort Worth school district board meeting
Where: Fort Worth School District Board Complex, 2903 Shotts St., Fort Worth
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday