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Denton ISD adopts new budget for fiscal year

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

The Denton school district’s 2013-14 fiscal year takes effect Monday.

This week, the school board adopted a new budget in which general fund or operating expenses are projected to total more than $208.6 million. The district projects general fund revenues will generate more than $204.3 million, and it’s hopeful reserves, healthy tax collections and an increase in student enrollment will offset a $4.3 million budget deficit, officials have said.

In the general fund, $5 million has been set aside for a salary compensation plan basing salaries on market trends. The board also voted 6-0 on Tuesday to approve a plan for all teachers to receive $1,200 raises, and all other employees will receive a 2 percent increase based on the midpoint salary or “market value” of their assigned pay grade.

District officials said increased health insurance costs were a consideration in the recommended pay increases.

“Our trustees spend a lot of time looking at the budget, looking at the needs of the district and the focus on classroom instruction remains evident,” Superintendent Jamie Wilson said.

He added the change in salary compensation allows the district to “remain committed to compensating people as best as we can with the means that we have.”

Earlier this month, the board received a presentation from a Texas Association of School Boards representative on a compensation study in which salaries are driven by current market trends — something the district intends to implement in the 2013-14 year.

The study compared Denton school district salaries with several districts in the area that employees could apply to work for without having to move, various studies, surveys and other public-sector employers. Several recommendations were made to the board.

Under the adopted 2013-14 salary compensation plan, the district will have a 25-step hiring schedule for teachers; hire new teachers with no experience at a starting salary of $48,000; eliminate master’s and doctorate degree salary schedules and pay a $1,750 stipend to individuals with a master’s degree and an additional $1,750 to individuals with a doctorate’s degree; and offer equity adjustments.

“We had extremely good market survey data to draw on, and we’ve made it a whole lot more fair for a whole lot of people,” said Charles Stafford, school board president. “It will enable us to attract and retain the type of quality people we want here. We have to be competitive in the marketplace. It’s just a fact of life.”

Jason Shipley, president of the United Educators Association Denton chapter, said he believes most district employees will be pleased with the pay increases. The Denton chapter of UEA has 160 members, he said, with a member represented on almost every Denton campus.

The increases, Shipley said, will result in take-home pay for some employees but for staff like him who cover their entire family on their health insurance, the raise will assist in offsetting some costs incurred by increased health insurance costs.

“I think that a lot of teachers will be pleased when they find out, but I think it will take some time to understand,” he said of the 2013-14 compensation system.

Richard Valenta, assistant superintendent for human resources, said the district intends to make a Frequently Asked Questions document and a PowerPoint presentation detailing the salary changes available on the district website soon. No specific date has been set for when the information will be available.

The general fund expenses for 2013-14 are nearly $11.8 million, about 6 percent more than general fund expenses incurred during the 2012-13 year, according district documents.

District officials have said the increase in expenses are a result of growth needs. According to district documents, the Denton school district is projected to grow by 904 students, or 3.57 percent, for the 2013-14 school year.

Additional operating expenses include more than $3 million assigned for staffing at Bettye Myers Middle School, opening this fall in Shady Shores; $9.5 million in personnel increases; and $2.3 million in nonpersonnel expenses. According to district documents, salaries account for 85 percent of general fund expenses budgeted for 2013-14.

Overall revenue for the operating fund is projected to increase by more than $10.3 million and includes nearly $5.3 million more in funds allocated to Denton by the state than what was disbursed the 2012-13 year.

The 83rd Legislature passed a $197 billion budget in which $4 billion in funding was restored to public education. During the prior legislative session, public education funding was cut by more than $5 billion, resulting in Denton eliminating 284 positions, mostly through attrition.

“We are still understaffed and underfunded based on what the Legislature did to us two years ago, but we’re going to make do, and we’re going to continue to have higher achievement because we have a great staff,” Stafford said.

District officials project a $478,527 surplus for the debt service fund, which uses the revenue collected to pay down district debt expenses from bond projects. District documents report revenues for the fund are projected to total more than $51 million the 2013-14 fiscal year and expenses are expected to total more than $50.6 million — expenses include payment for the $45 million in bonds the board has approved the sale of for land purchase, construction of a 22nd elementary school and planning costs for a fourth high school, district officials have said. Debt service expenses for 2013-14 are $3 million more than what the district incurred in 2012-13, according to district documents.

Child nutrition revenue and expenses are projected to break even at more than $9 million, according to district documents.

District officials have said no change is proposed for the district’s $1.49 per $100 valuation tax rate. According to district documents, the tax rate is slated to be set in September.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.