At the Magnolia ISD Board of Trustees meeting July 1, members agreed to provide a four percent raise for all non-administrative employees and a 2.5 percent raise for administrative employees.
The final MISD budget is still in progress, but Chief Financial Officer Erich Morris explained that the board feels a strong responsibility to spend funds where they have the most value for the students – to put as many dollars into the classroom as possible, while keeping operations expenses down.
"We work very lean, and 80% of our budget is for personnel, like most school districts in Texas," said Morris.
Superintendent Dr. Todd Stephens mentioned that raises this year were important because keeping the current staff is a priority for the district.
"We are always in competition with other districts for good people – and we want to take care of the people we have," he said.
He commented that new staff members are needed each year, many as replacements for personnel that are leaving and that the district wants to obtain the best talent available. As an example, he mentioned that the Board has often touted Morris for his proficiency and astute financial decisions and that there are many similarly dedicated professionals employed by MISD.
MISD and all Texas districts are monitored by the Texas Education Association (TEA), and must follow federal and state auditing guidelines. There is a court hearing scheduled for early 2014 that will contest the way Texas public school are funded, so the rules may change. But MISD officials say they will work to keep abreast of new guidelines, just like the district works hard now to stay ahead of population growth.
Stephens explained that knowing the community is critical to making sure the district had the facilities needed as the population grows. From 2005 to 2010 MISD experienced huge growth, with the district expanding from approximately 5,000 students to the present 13,000 students, and he expects more of the same going forward. Yet, the district wants to maintain the same school tax rate as it has for the past several years, and avoid overspending on any facilities before they are actually needed.
"When we make financial decisions, we try to put students first," said Stephens.
The Board is expected to finalize the 2013-14 budget next month.
One big item that was agreed on at the July 1 meeting was the acceptance of the contract for the tennis courts, to be constructed in the Magnolia Unity Park area near Alpha Academy. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Magnolia Community Foundation, these will not require taxpayer money for construction. The courts will be maintained by MISD.