Marshall ISD trustees discussed a proposed 2020-21 budget during a Thursday meeting that would see the rest of the district’s staff get pay raises now that teachers have secured another 4 percent pay increase earlier this year.
Marshall ISD Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Susie Byrd presented three different possible proposed budgets to the trustees on Thursday to see which budget they would like to pursue.
The first proposal offered a balanced budget with no raises for administration or auxiliary staff, other than the 4 percent pay increases approved for teachers earlier this year.
A second proposed budget offered about a $304,000 deficit with a 4 percent pay raise for administrators and a 2 percent pay raise for auxiliary staff. The about $300,000 deficit would come from vacant teacher positions that the district might could not fill throughout the school year anyway, therefore possibly eliminating the deficit.
The third proposal offered a balanced budget with the 4 percent pay raises for administration and 2 percent raises for auxiliary staff but eliminated outright the vacant teacher positions, meaning the district would not even try to fill those positions throughout the year.
After some discussion, the trustees agreed to go with the second proposal, in the hopes that the about $300,000 deficit would be made up in other ways throughout the school year, or the vacant positions would go unfilled, therefore creating a balanced budget by next fall.
“As long as I’ve been superintendent here, we have had vacant teacher positions throughout the year that went unfilled,” Marshall ISD Superintendent Jerry Gibson said. “It’s not from lack of us trying, it’s just from not being able to fill all of the positions before the start of the school year, or having teachers leave throughout the school year, so we’ve ended up with a handful of positions not filled each year.”
Trustee Chase Palmer said he was reluctant to agree to a deficit budget at such an uncertain financial time in the state and nation.
“I’m not comfortable spending anymore money,” Palmer said. “We have spent a boat load of money recently.”
Trustee Ted Huffhines said despite the uncertainty of the times, should the district’s student population drop in the future creating a loss of revenue, the district’s spending costs would also drop with it so future budgets would have ways of working themselves out financially and changing with the times.
“If you increase these salaries, you do it forever,” Palmer said. “I’m just concerned with the long term.”
Byrd and Trustee Brad Burris both pointed out that in past years, despite the district occasionally adopting deficit budgets, the district has actually never ended a fiscal year in the red, but instead with surpluses.
Gibson said teachers have gotten raises twice in a row now while other district staff has not received raises since 2016.
“I’m doing this unapologetically because there’s too much uncertainty at this time to not give these staff a little extra peace of mind,” Gibson said. “2016 was the last time that everybody across the board got raises.”
Teachers receives a 3 percent raise last year and trustees approved another 4 percent raise for teachers earlier this year.
“I know there’s probably a big budget cut in the future on the state side of things and it’s always a hard decision but I’m in favor of plan 2 with an eye towards reducing the number of vacant positions,” Trustee Helen Warwick said Thursday.
“We typically always come in every year under budget,” Burris said.
Palmer said he did support the other staff getting raises, he was just concerned for the district’s financial future.
“I’m not for not compensating people, I’m just worried about what the future has to offer,” he said.
Huffhines said he felt the raises for the remaining staff were a must.
“We haven’t given the administration and auxiliary staff raises in the past two terms and I don’t think that speaks well of us,” he said.
Palmer agreed and said he would support the second plan.
“I would lean more toward plan two and do the deficit budget and then try to make it up on the back end,” he said.
Byrd reassured the board she believes the district would not have a deficit come the end of the fiscal year.
“I still think we’ll be in the black at the end of the year,” Byrd said.
The plan two proposed budget would include the already approved 4 percent pay raises for teachers and a 4 percent pay raise for administration, as well as a 2 percent pay raise for auxiliary staff. The total proposed $46.8 million budget with about a $304,000 deficit is based off an Average Daily Attendance of 4,770 students, which is down from last year, Byrd said.
“Property taxes are down about 2.2 percent so that lowered our property tax income, which then boosted our state revenue, so it puts us about the same as last year,” she said.
The proposed tax rate is not yet available as the Texas Education Agency has not yet sent the information about it back to the district. Byrd said she expects that information back from the TEA by mid-August.
“The proposed tax rate we have to send in to TEA for approval and we haven’t gotten that back yet but it looks as though it will go down,” Byrd said.
The proposed budget is set to be adopted on Aug. 31 after the required public hearings for the proposed budget and tax rate.