The Leander ISD Business and Finance Department, in cooperation with campus and district staff, work with our locally elected Board of Trustees for several months to craft an annual budget to serve our more than 39,000 students. While the Board’s vote to approve the budget will not occur until their Aug. 17 meeting, our trustees approved a few components during the process.
Knowing that the Texas Legislature’s month-long special session started last week, you may hear more conversations about school finance and teacher pay. Hopefully, this article will provide some context to Texas public school finance at the local level.
LISD’s budget for the upcoming school year will include a pay raise for all employees. This was not required or funded by the state, rather it is an acknowledgement by the Board of each district employee’s efforts in leading all students to bright futures.
Experienced teachers’ salaries will increase by $1,548, making LISD the second highest-paying district in our area for veteran educators, second only to Austin ISD. Salaries for librarians, counselors and nurses will see the same increase.
Starting teacher salaries will increase to $46,150 and all other staff will receive a 3-percent of mid-point pay raise. Our Human Resource Services team conducted a salary study to identify compensation changes for bus drivers, bus monitors and crossing guards to remain competitive with other Central Texas school districts and to properly reward these essential professionals. With many public, private and higher education institutions in the greater Austin area, all vying for talented staff members, LISD needs to stay competitive with our compensation in order to attract and to retain our very best educators.
As our schools continue to draw new families into our area, we will grow by about 1,100 students this year. We will open our newest elementary school, Akin Elementary, and will welcome our inaugural junior class at Glenn High School, both schools in the fast-growth Leander area.
To address this student growth, and to enhance student learning, the budget includes funds for 84 new teaching positions. Those new positions will include several teachers to help keep class sizes small at our Title I schools — schools with high numbers of low-income families — as well as teachers to support specific populations like our special education, gifted (QUEST) and dyslexic students. To ensure our students receive the support they need outside of the classroom, we added additional counselors to all middle and high schools.
We lost many of these core and enrichment positions, in LISD and across the state, due to state funding cuts in 2011. I am encouraged to see progress toward restoring these jobs and providing students with the level of support and challenge they deserve.
Another significant budget item we have prepared for is an increase in contributions LISD makes to employee health care. The rising cost of health care is something that has impacted nearly everyone nationwide and, unfortunately, LISD is not immune.
We understand the expense this can pose for our employees and their families, so we are making every effort to absorb increases in costs as best we can. Because our budget runs on the school calendar and our health care plan runs on a normal calendar year, we have set aside funds to address this need and will finalize the exact amount in the coming months.
As a lifetime educator, I recognize the importance of supporting our retired teachers through the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and its health care system, TRS Care. Rising costs likewise impacted TRS Care, the cost of which legislators have pushed to school districts as an unfunded state mandate. The TRS Care shortfall created a $500,000 expenditure for LISD in 2017-18.
I am extremely proud of the conscientious efforts of our staff and Board of Trustees to create a budget plan that supports teachers, focuses on student learning and honors our community’s investment.
Once our Board finalizes and approves the 2017-18 budget, it will be made available on the Financial Transparency section of our website. Thank you for helping us lead all students to a bright future.