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Mission CISD raises tax rate 3 cents

20140905 generic-schoolMission teachers will receive raises and equity adjustments ranging from $1500 to $3000 plus a 2.5 percent from midpoint pay bonus just before Christmas. Meanwhile, taxpayers will see their school taxes go up next year, and every year for the next three years if school administrators get their way.

The pay raises/adjustments for all Mission CISD employees will cost $3.75 million and the bonuses will run an additional $2.6 million.

In the Aug. 6 meeting of the Mission CISD Board of Trustees, Superintendent of Schools Ricardo Lopez pushed for a 5.5-cent tax increase this year, followed by a series of tax hikes each year until a total of 13 cents is added to the I&S tax levy. However, board members Sonia Trevino and Patty Bazaldua reined in the superintendent, instructing the staff to come back with a budget based on a 3-cent tax increase.

This week, Mission CISD board of trustees unanimously approved a 3-cent tax rate increase for next year to fund a $179.5 million budget. Even with the tax increase, this is a deficit budget with the district spending $28 million more than it will take in. The board also approved the budget for the 2014-2015 school year.

Last year’s budget was $168.8 million, serving approximately 150 more students than this year, due to declining enrollment.

The largest component of the district’s budget is payroll, which is estimated at $114.3 million, including teacher pay raises. Teachers will receive raises of between $1500 and $3000 this year, not including stipend increases, plus a big bonus — classified as “incentive pay” by school officials — just before Christmas.

First year teachers will be paid $45,250 per year, plus benefits, while teachers with 20 years of experience are to be paid $54,768 annually. Teachers reaching 10 years of experience will receive the biggest bump in pay this year — an increase of $3,000, due to a $1500 “equity adjustment” when compared with other school districts.

All other staff positions will receive a 3 percent from midpoint pay increase.

Capital improvement spending for the upcoming year is budgeted at $18.8 million, with the largest budget item being construction of the new Mission Collegiate High School campus, estimated to cost $9.66 million. Construction on the new campus started earlier this summer and is scheduled to be substantially completed by June 29, 2015.

Another planned capital improvement project is expansion of the central kitchen and equipment, priced at $2.8 million. However, during the district’s Facilities Committee meeting held Wednesday, Sept. 3, the superintendent asked the board to hold off on the project temporarily while staff studies the option of going back to full-functioning kitchens at the campus level. Admitting it would be a more costly approach to providing meals, he wants to look at preparing the meals on campus, rather than at the centralized kitchen.

Other capital/construction projects in next year’s budget include: warehouse roof replacement, $1.2 million; canopies and sidewalks, $1.17 million; stadium bleachers, $1 million; and Transportation Department Hub, $800,000.

Some of the other major expenditures planned include $2.3 million for textbook adoption, $700,000 for a new Finance/Human Resources System, and $570,000 to purchase five new school buses.

During the public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rate held just prior to the adoption of the new tax rate, Rumalda Ruiz, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the 3-cent tax increase would go to the Interest and Sinking (I&S) Fund for debt service, and the administration proposes to increase the tax rate by approximately 3.5 cents per year for the next three fiscal years in order to meet bonded indebtedness obligations.

Since voters approved the Tax Ratification Election, or TRE, in 2011, moving 13 cents from the Interest and Sinking (I&S) fund to Maintenance and Operations (M&O), the board of trustees can increase the tax rate as much as 13 cents without voter approval.

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