NEWS HEADLINES

New Decatur ISD budget adds 20 jobs

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, September 1, 2018
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Decatur ISD trustees approved a $39.599 million budget Monday night that includes $31.050 million in the maintenance and operations expenses and will put a little more than $1 million in reserves.

Along with approving the budget that earmarked $17.575 million for instruction and added 20 jobs – 10 teachers, five administrators and five instructional aides, trustees gave their consent for a tax cut of 3.5 cents. The tax rate will be $1.305 per $100 of valuation with a maintenance and operations rate of $1.04 and debt service rate of 26.5 cents.

“We’ll be able to provide the resources for the kids and staff to be taken care of. [The budget] also takes care of the taxpayers. We’re being fiscally responsible,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Judi Whitis.

While approving the 16 percent increase in general fund spending for 2018-19, the district quickly turned a watchful eye to the following year where it could be facing a shortfall, if enrollment does not increase and the district falls into recapture.

Decatur ISD Deputy Superintendent Cindy Tatum warned the district could be looking at a $547,775 deficit to start planning for next year.

“If all I said previously with my crystal ball is true, then that’s what we’re facing. That’s a loss before you give any raises or anything like that,” Tatum said. “Raises are about $600,000. That’s what you are looking at going into ’19-20.”

Trustee Matt Joiner posed questions about the financial ramifications of adding staff if enrollment does not hit projections. The district anticipated an enrollment of 3,425 with this year’s budget. As of Thursday, enrollment was at 3,390.

“When we look at next year, we could be in a bad situation,” Joiner said.

Whitis responded by stating the district will be reviewing its staffing ratios and working to improve the average daily attendance. She also said the district could look to accept additional transfers.

Board secretary Jennifer Wren added the district would be able to adjust staffing by not filling openings next summer if needed.

“You always have the ability to absorb those spots,” Wren said.

In this year’s budget, the district gave teachers, librarians and nurses a raise of $1,775. The starting teacher salary was set at $47,000. All other employees will receive a 3 percent of the midpoint increase. The district will also pay $366 per month for employee health insurance.

The district is buying two 14-passenger buses and hiring more school resource officers.

Decatur ISD’s debt service payment will be $5.711 million.

Even with the tax cut, the average homeowner will see an increase in their tax bill. The average taxable value of a home in Decatur ISD after the $25,000 homestead exemption is $178,202, an increase of $22,186 from last year. The average tax bill will increase by $234.93 to $2,325.54.

The district’s total certified taxable tax roll increased from $1.973 billion to $2.303 billion with $71.627 million in new property.

In other business, trustees hired Underwood Law Firm of Fort Worth to represent the district for a pending Level III grievance filed by an employee. Citing that it is a personnel issue, Whitis would not elaborate on the pending grievance.

Trustees also approved a $55,982 contract with the Education Service Center Region XI for services in the 2018-19 school year.

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