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La Joya ISD maintains tax rate, gives raises

La Joya ISD board members approved a budget last week that includes a $1,200 increase for teachers as well as a raise for all employees.

Auxiliary positions will receive a 75-cent-an-hour salary boost and nonteaching professionals will get a 2.5 percent raise.

LA JOYA LOGOTrustee Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa was quick to point out the proposed budget does not include her push for stipends for teachers who have been with the district more than 20 years.

“That is not totally out of the question yet,” said Alfredo Vela, assistant superintendent of finance. “It’s still something we’re studying … Is it out of the question? No. Is it in the numbers right now? No. We can look at it again.”

Overall, Vela said the La Joya Independent School District’s tax rate is remaining at $1.31 per $100 property valuation, but he pointed out that local taxes make up less than 10 percent of the $361.8 million budget. Most of the revenue comes from state and federal resources.

Even so, to balance the budget the district is dipping into its fund balance to come up with an additional $38.2 million.

“There’s enough fund balance and/or revenues to cover all of the appropriations,” Vela assured.

To make the numbers work, the district’s workers compensation rate was cut from 3 percent to 1.5 percent and its unemployment rate was cut from .3 percent to .15 percent. Vela said he’s confident the budgeted amounts would cover the necessary expenses.

The district is maintaining its health insurance coverage for employees, allocating $5,100 per employee.

“I do want to point out that the health insurance total for La Joya ISD is very, very, very pro employee,” Vela said. “The health insurance total for La Joya ISD compares with none other in the Valley.”

There was no budgeted increase for average daily attendance, Vela pointed out. In fact, the district was down 54 students, according to the first enrollment report of the year. It’s a situation the district will have to monitor, he said, and possibly look at incentives for increasing average daily attendance.

Vela said they’d also revisit a study conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards that stated the district needed to concentrate on core-area subjects. Right now, he said the district has lower teacher-student ratios in its elective courses and the district needs to reverse that trend.

The approved budget includes $27.2 million for special projects. The district’s natatorium project, which includes a learning center and planetarium at the golf course, was budgeted at $14 million, but the new estimate is set at $21 million.

Other construction projects include HVAC renovations at Benavides, Leo, Camarena and Seguin elementaries; $1.39 million for drainage at Juarez-Lincoln High School; $1.5 million for surveillance cameras at all high schools. La Joya ISD already has ordered 10 new buses and paid for school supplies at the elementary schools, Vela added.

“There will be no additional funds available for campuses,” Vela said. What they have on (Sept. 1) is what they’re going to have throughout the year.”

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