by Mary Alys Cherry
As both Clear Creek ISD teachers and more than 40,000 students began a new year, they walked in with a slight spring in their step, knowing things would be better this year.
Better than they had been the past two years or more after the Texas Legislature cut CCISD’s funding by $23 million, resulting in larger pupil to-teacher ratios, staffing reductions, cutbacks in cleaning, supplies, bus routes and no raises in salary.
The $5.4 billion legislative slash in funding to Texas schools two years ago – partially restored during this year’s session — resulted in many Texas school districts having to trim their teaching staffs. Fortunately, CCISD was able to avoid laying off teachers until the economy bounced back but that probably didn’t keep them from worrying about their future as many staff jobs were cut.
The $289.7 million budget is back to what it was before the economic downturn and includes funds for 18 additional teaching positions and $10.7 million in salary increases for teachers and staff.
School Board President Ann Hammond wore a big smile as trustees passed the new budget.
“Our employees, at all levels, work tirelessly to ensure all students in CCISD receive a high quality education. They have remained focused on the district’s mission while we worked through very difficult financial times. Now that the state has returned a portion of the funding it cut from public education in 2011, we are returning those dollars to staff,” she said afterwards.
The budget also reflects an increase in the district’s contribution to employee health care from $225 to $265 per month.
The vast majority of expenditures this school year, $188 million, will be for teacher salaries and benefits. The district will also spend $21 million in school leadership; $20.4 million in plant maintenance; $6.6 million for technology services; $6 million in administration; and, $3 million for security.
Another large category of expenditures is student support services at $30.8 million. This includes counseling services, student transportation, co-curricular activities and health services. Finally, the district will spend $13.4 million for other services. The largest part of this expense, $8.5 million, is to pay for the cost the electricity to run campus and support facilities.
Despite the increase in state funding, Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith says, “we will continue to look for ways to reduce costs without impacting student services. CCISD has reduced its utility budget by more than $2.5 million in two years and our Administrative Cost Ratio is 4.59 percent compared to the state’s average of 11 percent for districts our size.”
CCISD’s revenue comes from three main sources — $168.3 million from local property taxes and $115.5 from state and federal funding. Another $5.8 million comes from a variety of sources such as donations, advertising, etc.
The proposed Maintenance & Operations tax rate will remain at $1.04 per $100 valuation, while the Interest & Sinking tax rate will increase by four cents from $0.32 to $0.36 as part of year one of the CCISD bond program as authorized by voters in May 2013. The total tax rate of $1.40 is still less than the 2005 tax rate of $1.77.