As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sock the state’s revenue sources, there’s some concern among school officials that education will be the target of spending cuts in the upcoming legislative session.
Paris ISD Superintendent Paul Jones on Monday briefly discussed with trustees the state’s Teacher Incentive Allotment, an optional fund created in House Bill 3, which the Legislature passed in June 2019. The goal of the allotment is to provide a pathway for top teachers to earn a six-figure salary and to help attract and retain effective teachers at hard-to-staff schools.
The state had projected a $3 billion surplus this biennium, but is already projecting a $4.5 billion shortfall, Jones said.
“So that’s a $7 billion hit the state’s taken. This is kind of a pet project of the commissioner. I just don’t see it being funded by the state anymore,” he added. “They may require districts to do it, like the High School Allotment, no longer funded but we’re still doing it.
“The state likes to start allotments and say ‘we’re going to fund it,’ and after a few years, the allotment kind of goes away but the requirement stays. I hope it doesn’t go away because it is a good opportunity for our teachers, but we’ll just see how everything happens in this legislative session.”
In other financial news, Paris ISD trustees learned Monday that tax collections just barely exceeded their estimates in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Business manager Tish Holleman said the Lamar County Appraisal District reported a collection rate of 97.18%. The school district trustees approved a budget estimating collections at 97%.
“It was a good, strong year for collections, as we’ve had for the last couple of years,” Holleman said.
Trustees also learned that a budget amendment they made in August will result in some extra funds because an expected expenditure was unexpectedly covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Trustees approved funding for student meals during the week-long gap between the end of the summer feeding program on Aug. 28 and the start of the school year on Sept. 8, however, the USDA later announced it would continue to fund the summer program. That allowed the district to apply for the funds to cover the meal costs.
Holleman said the funds approved by trustees will stay put to provide a cushion should the district’s food service department need them.
Among the budget amendments trustees approved Monday was a request to put nearly $30,000 raised from old equipment sales to help the district buy a ¾ ton or 1 ton truck to pull trailers. The district currently has one “good pulling truck” although the band travels with two trailers and One Act takes a trailer to competitions, Holleman said. Having a second truck available would be a safety measure, she added.
Trustees on Monday also approved the district’s asynchronous learning plan, which will be submitted to the Texas Education Agency today for approval; reelected Terry Davis to serve on the Paris Education Foundation board for the 2020-21 school year; and had the second reading of required policy updates, which will be up for trustee approval next month.
They also approved the hirings of Paris Junior High School teachers Clara Blansett, Keyerah Reynolds and Kelly Turner, and Crockett Intermediate School teachers Shelbie Little and Deterrius Flentroy. Pamela Furtch’s resignation as a Crockett teacher was accepted.