The Victoria school district is proposing an 18-cent reduction on its tax rate for day-to-day operations during the 2019-2020 school year, officials said at a budget workshop Thursday night.
The proposed rate of $0.97 per $100 of assessed valuation would be a lower rate than the $1.04 that existed before Hurricane Harvey. The proposed reduction, however, includes eliminating the one-year, 11-cent tax increase the board adopted last year to help keep the district operating after Hurricane Harvey damages.
School officials did not address the tax rate that goes to pay off debt services.
Frances Koch, the assistant superintendent of budget and finance for the district, said the proposed 18-cent reduction is possible through the new formula calculation from House Bill 3. The bill was passed by the Texas Legislature this year to provide more funding for schools, teacher compensation and reduced local property taxes.
The district’s next budget workshop is scheduled Aug. 1.
“This reduction is a wonderful opportunity to get tax relief to the community while also offering staff pay increases,” said Shawna Currie, spokeswoman for the district.
During the board workshop, Superintendent Quintin Shepherd proposed an average salary increase of 6.2% for teachers and a 5% average increase for staff, paraprofessionals and administration.
The proposed salary raises come a month after the board approved pay increases for bus drivers in an effort to be more competitive and to replenish the shortage of district bus drivers. Additionally, since posting new bus driver salaries, the district has been able to successfully recruit 14 drivers, Shepherd said.
The district is proposing more than $6.5 million in salary increases for all, with $4.67 million going to teachers; $490,724 for support staff; $572,689 for paraprofessionals; $683,223 for administration instructional staff; and $89,612 for administration business staff, said Gregory Bonewald, the deputy superintendent of operations.
The salary increase recommendations would not include any increase to Shepherd’s salary.
The raises would be the first salary increases in several years, as teachers have received stipends for the past several years.
“This is the largest salary increase in our history,” Bonewald said, generating applause from those attending the meeting.
Shepherd requested the board vote on the proposed salary recommendations at its next meeting Aug. 1 so employees could get credit under the Texas Retirement System of Texas, or TRS.
“If we wait until the end of August to approve it (salaries) ... all of our employees will lose that credit,” Shepherd said. “That’s kind of a big deal for all of the employees.”
Trustee Kevin VanHook said he was in favor of voting on the proposed salary increases.
“I love you guys, and I want to make sure you all get credit immediately,” VanHook said.
Shepherd said if the Legislature did not continue state funding to maintain the pay hike, the district would likely have to make budget adjustments later.
“We are dealing with the cards the Legislature has given us right now,” he said. “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”
Kathleen Lee, a pre-Kindergarten teacher at Hopkins Elementary School, said before the meeting that she would like for the board to approve the salary increase recommendations. Lee said that although teachers have received stipends for the past several years, an increase in salaries would help financially because she is raising a grandchild on her own.
“I’m hoping this salary increase will make a difference to have a savings account to save what we need and maybe take a special trip,” Lee, 66, said.