CCAISD trustees approve budget, tax for 2015-16 school year

BY ROBERT MORALES

CCAISD trustees on Monday approved a balanced budget in the amount of $6,082,132 presented by Superintendent Dalia Benavides. Ms. Benavides told trustees that she had made some minor changes to the draft budget she had initially presented.
 
These include:
Function 11 (Instruction): Increased by $23,538. She said that after the first school day, she realized that she would have to hire a new aide to help out at recess because grades 1 and 2 had only one aide supervising the playground. She said that the additional aide was essential for safety reasons.

Function 36 (Extracurricular Activities): Increased by $3,000 to (1) add a stipend for personnel who drive a bus. “Rather than paying by trip, we just added a $1,000 stipend; and  (2) a technology stipend.

Function 52 (Security and Monitoring Services): Increased by $2,500.Ms. Benavides said that she hadn’t taken into account security at football games. She said that the $2,500 figure is what has been paid in the past to hire security personnel at football games.

“If we stay within our budget, we will be able to put approximately $500,000 in our fund balance at the end of the year.” She added that she increased the budget in specific line items that had been short in last year’s budget to avoid having to request budget amendments.

As for the new aide Ms. Benavides requested, she said that teachers in the past performed recess duties during lunch, but that will change this year so that teachers can have time to eat lunch. “I think it’s beneficial for our teachers not to have recess duties because then they can eat and take care of their business and they’ll be ready for the kids when they go back into the classroom.”

After no further debate, board members voted unanimously to pass the 2015-2016 budget.

Next, trustees adopted a tax rate in the amount of $1.0560.  A school district’s property tax rate is made up of a Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax rate and, in the case of CCAISD, also an Interest and Sinking Fund tax rate. The M&O rate is $1.04 and the I&S tax rate is $0.0156.  The I&S tax rate provides funds for payments on the debt that finances a district’s facilities.

Trustees also approved several budget amendments. The district received an additional $500,553 in revenues. On the expenditures side, the budget amendments covered recapture money the district will owe the state at the end of the school year because of the state’s “wealth equalization” financing plan. CCAISD is classified as “property-wealthy.”

Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code requires school districts that are property wealthy to share their wealth with school districts that are property poor. This statute is sometimes referred to as the “share the wealth” or “Robin Hood” plan. The school finance system “recaptures” funds from the property-wealthy districts to distribute to the property-poor districts.

The amendments also addressed maintenance improvements, such as a new floor in the gym, culinary arts kitchen renovations and general improvements to the school. This item went over by $148,000 and that same amount must be put back in the budget to finish paying off the improvements.

Other amendments were approved for debt service. An additional $2,000 was added to cover debt service for the stadium. Under Maintenance & Operations, the budget amendment covered windscreens, alarm system, sprinkler system and the rock landscaping at Eagle Field.

Under Extracurricular Activities, Ms. Benavides said that the athletes are having to travel farther to reach destination points for playoffs. Finally, under School  Leadership, an additional $4,000 was added to pay for employee salaries that worked in August but won’t get paid until September.

Why budget amendments? “According to TEA rules,” said Ms. Benavides, “we can’t be over in any function of our budget. If we are, then we must do a budget amendment to cover the overage, and it requires board approval. If we don’t [approve a budget amendment], it will trigger a budget violation on our part.”

In other action, trustees:
•Approved a legal retainer with Walsh Anderson in the amount of $1,000 plus any additional billing that may result for legal work and telephone consultations.
•Approved a revised calendar for 2015-16.  Ms. Benavides said the district would take one day off on Sept. 7 because the original calendar allocated 188 days of school instead of the state’s required 187 days.
•Approved the district’s investment policy
•Approved Trustee Angie Gonzales as a TASB delegate to attend a meeting in Austin in September and Rocio Oñate as the alternate.
•Approved the revised teacher appraisal policy to the new Texas Teacher and Evaluation System (T-TESS)
•Approved the sale of property under Cause #4871 in the amount of $3,000 to Armando and Manuel Lopez
•Approved Van Horn Oil & Propane as fuel provider for the district. Only one bid was received.

Board members went into closed session for about 25 minutes to discuss “matters concerning personnel” and “consultation with attorney (as necessary).”  Following the closed session President Paul Uranga announced no action was taken.

Before trustees went into closed session, the item on the agenda that had been moved to the end of the agenda (Item F.) was “Approval of Board Standard Operating Procedures and Code of Ethics.”

Ms. Benavides said that school had “gotten off to a good start” with 442 students enrolled on the first day of school and about 38 no-shows. She said about nine more students are expected to enroll very soon.