Teachers in Frisco public schools could get a pay bump come June if the school board approves next year's budget. The projected three-percent raise is thanks to a larger than projected budget surplus.
Earlier this month, Frisco ISD Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Pickens presented the board with the 2018-2019 proposed budget. In reviewing last year’s numbers, the district finished out the year with a nearly $40 million surplus instead of the $3.5 million it expected.
"We base our budget every year on property value estimates that come out in April, but property values don't actually come out until July. And in that time period, we've already adopted our budget,” Pickens said.
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That's how this year's property values ended up much higher than the district expected, accounting for the majority of the surplus. The district also saved money across several departments, but it was mainly due to a shortage of bus drivers and substitutes.
Pickens said only $13 million of the $40 million surplus was sustainable or spendable.
"It's savings that we see year after year that we know we don't need to continue saving… because our fund balance is really healthy. If we spend it on something that's a recurring expense, like payroll for example or salaries, that's something we could do comfortably," Pickens said.
That's exactly how it will be used. Pickens said a citizen-led committee has helped to rebalance the district's budget and prioritize spending since the budget shortfall two years ago.
She said that group was nearly unanimous in deciding that any extra funds should be allocated for teacher salaries to help make the district more competitive with other nearby districts.
"We've been behind for a really long time when it comes to salaries across the board," Pickens said.
If approved, salaries would increase three percent instead of the two percent initially planned. The district would also increase the starting salary for a first-year teacher from $50,500 to $53,000, which would raise it above some other large districts like Fort Worth ISD, Denton ISD and Dallas ISD.
"It puts us on a more level playing field. I wouldn't say we're going to be at the front of the group by any means, because every other district around us is planning raises as well. Still, it definitely makes us more competitive and allows us to attract and retain those high quality teachers we know our community values,” Pickens said.
The budget shortfall the district experienced two years ago was blamed on a failed property tax rate increase. Despite values increasing this year, Pickens said it would still take a rate increase for the district to benefit more from the current surplus.