MISD teachers get state-mandated raises

Marfa ISD teachers and staff are getting a raise, for the most part. “This budget is going to be scary,” said Superintendent Aguero.

MARFA – Marfa ISD teachers and staff are getting a raise, for the most part. The MISD School Board approved new pay scales for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year to meet the requirements of the recently passed Texas House Bill (HB) 3.

HB3 changed several ways to finance education, including decreasing the tax rate, using the most recent property values to determine state funding, and giving salary increases for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians.

MISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero told the school board that these changes will alter the budget planning process into more of a guessing game.

“This budget is going to be scary,” said Aguero.

Before HB3, the district received state funding based on property values from the previous year, i.e., 2017, which provided a more solid number to help set the budget.

“That made it easier for us because those had been certified by our local property appraiser and the comptroller had gone through it and given us their values,” said Aguero.

The idea is to allow school districts to use the extra funds to adjust to the decrease in local taxes. HB3 also compressed the district’s tax rate. The tax rate of $1.04 per $100 valuation is now compressed to 93 cents per $100 valuation.

“Since (the values) should be higher, you tax less. There you make up the money,” said Aguero.

The issue with using the current property values though is that PCAD doesn’t certified them until late July after the appraisal protests.

The district hasn’t received the values from the Texas Comptroller’s office. This means Aguero and Bianca Gonzales, MISD Registered Texas School Business Administrator and Business Specialist, have to predict the values to determine some of MISD’s revenue. A suggestion Aguero received was to look at the values’ growth from the last four to five years, but the county went through a complete reappraisal in 2014, where property owners saw their values vastly increase. The values for agriculture and homes made with adobe saw increases in 2017.

“Those numbers skewed everything,” said Aguero.

This scares him because he doesn’t want to make a mistake. To accommodate these changes, Aguero and Gonzales are trying to be financially conservative. Since the bill went into effect last month, the template to help determine the budget has been revised at least three times to reflect HB3. Before the board can set the budget, they needed to first approve the staff salaries, which account for 75 percent of the district’s budget.

“If that’s not set, nothing goes,” said Aguero.

Gonzales presented the board with the proposed salary schedules for the upcoming school year. The documents show how the district aligns with the previous and updated minimum state salary scales for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses based on years of experience. It showed that the district was not in compliance with the employees with more than 10 years of experience. However, those with less than 10 years of experience were already receiving compensation above the state minimum.

A teacher with no teaching experience starts with a salary of $36,500, which is $8,420 above the previous scale and $2,840 above the new state scale. Because most of MISD’s pay scale was already set higher than the new state minimum, salaries for teachers with zero to three years of experience remained the same. These teachers will see an increase in $1,000 if they gain another year of experience. That increase climbs to $1,250 when they reach their fourth year.

“I will tell you that $1,000 is a large increment in comparison to other districts’ increments,” said Gonzales.

The school board also approved a two percent midpoint salary increase for support personnel and administrative staff. This doesn’t apply to Aguero’s salary, as his is attached to his contract with the board. The board also approved a $500 increase for staff without certification.

With these new rates, Oscar and his financial staff can now begin the budget planning process for the upcoming school year.