With a $4.3 million boost in state revenue, Mineral Wells ISD trustees Thursday unanimously adopted a 2019-2020 budget providing $3.6 million in teacher raises and lowering the property tax rate 3 cents.
The next fiscal year's budget calls for $38.6 million in total spending, with half of that – $19.1 million – tied to instruction, including personnel salaries. Maintenance operations costs are projected to total $3.1 million. Food service spending is $2 million, offset by that same amount it receives from state, federal and other revenue sources. Debt service this year totals $3.9 million.
The big news is the influx of new revenue as a result of the Texas Legislature passing major school funding and property tax reform, making possible the local raises and largely the tax rate reduction from $1.43 down to $1.3987 per $100 property valuation. That includes a 10-cent reduction in the district's maintenance and operations rate, but increases the debt service rate 7 cents.
In all, the district projects to receive $23.8 million from the state in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The district was required to provide at least $990,000 in salary raises from the $4.3 million in new state revenue, but opted to give $3.6 million in raises in an effort to bring teaching and administration salaries more in line with area districts, and help in recruiting and retaining teachers.
District officials believe the raises provided is the largest by any district in the state this year.
Popular in many education circles for his sometimes outspoken criticism of how Texas funds and measures public schools, MWISD Superintendent Dr. John Kuhn had words of praise Thursday for lawmakers' efforts to level the playing field through increased state funding support.
"For the first time in decades they made a significant change to how they fund schools without a court order telling them to do that," said Kuhn following the budget and tax rate ratification votes.
He said for many years, Mineral Wells ISD was on "the losing end" how the state funded districts. He said that tide has shifted favorably.
"It is only because of House Bill 3," Kuhn said. "It's also a little bit because of property tax values going up."
The district projects receiving $11.7 million in local property tax revenue next year.
"To have the state make such a needed change and provide some relief is going to be very beneficial to us," Kuhn added.
He also thanked district Finance Director Paul Hearn and his staff for their work on the budget and tax rate and helping make possible the raises and other improvements the district plans in 2020.