Education

The Temple ISD school board is expected to approve their $115.9 million budget for the 2020-21 academic year on Monday.

If approved, teachers will receive a 2.7 percent average raise, while remaining staff will receive a 1.5 percent raise — an additional $3.5 million for staff compensation, positions and equity adjustments.

Superintendent Bobby Ott told the Telegram these proposed pay increases will provide staff comparable salaries without needing to adopt a deficit budget nor dip into their fund balance reserves.

He also emphasized how an additional four factors have played into this year’s budget adoption process: providing the community a balanced budget, negotiating the total tax rate to remain relatively flat, preparing a sustainable budget and remaining sensitive to the district’s taxpayers.

“Keep in mind, Temple ISD added $6.5 million in salaries last year, which marked the largest pay increase in comparable Central Texas (school) districts,” Ott said. “The average amount contributed to staff raises in the last two years is around $5 million per year.”

Ott said Temple ISD’s conservative approach to their budget this year comes thanks to their aggressive compensation plan last year.

“This was a good foresight by our school district in light of the current and future economic forecast related to public school funding,” he said. “This budget also demonstrates our appreciation to Temple ISD staff for pivoting at the last minute to finish the year in the midst of the pandemic.”

Ott also noted how this year’s budget will allow Temple ISD to maintain a relatively “flat tax rate.” And that rate can potentially drop even lower during the district’s tax rate adoption in December. However, increased property appraisals throughout the county will force most taxpayers to pay more.

“Temple ISD sold the remaining bonds in 2015, which naturally increased the debt side of the total tax rate,” Ott said. “However, this was strategically offset by the tax compression on the maintenance side of the total tax rate. It also puts us in a good position when growth inevitably determines the need for a future bond and additional schools.”

Kent Boyd, Temple ISD assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the district typically begins drafting their budget in January after returning from Christmas break. And this year’s process has been relatively smooth, he said.

“We had to work through a few things but it was not tremendously difficult,” Boyd said. “And when you plan a budget, it’s always wise to look to the future.”

That forward look is vital, as Boyd said the district anticipates a rather difficult budget adoption process next year because of the downturn in the state economy tied to COVID-19 and oil prices.

“We do anticipate a difficult process next year. Not just Temple ISD but every public school,” Boyd said. “So we’re also trying to get a balanced budget but also trying to plan for the future and not put ourselves into a position where we create more challenges and heartaches as a district a year from now.”