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Partnering with our community - for our community (2/15/17)

This week, the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees participated in a joint meeting with the City of Sugar Land Mayor, City Council members, and key city staff members, marking a first-of-its-kind meeting in recent years. The meeting was significant because it demonstrated an ongoing partnership with our community leaders – who are equally committed to the success of our Fort Bend ISD students.


Together, these elected leaders share a belief that strong schools produce strong communities. In the coming weeks, both governing bodies will consider resolutions that recognize this partnership, calling on state legislators to take action to protect our communities – as well as the public school systems that they serve. I am proud to a be a part of a community that truly believes in our youth. The future of our community, our state and nation relies on its educated graduates.


Planning for Growth


Other conversations centered around Fort Bend ISD and the City of Sugar Land’s continuous efforts to plan for and manage growth while keeping the needs of our stakeholders in mind. This discussion was also very timely, as the Board heard presentations about the District’s Annual Enrollment Review and demographic update during its Regular Business meeting. The demographic update, conducted by the independent demography firm Population and Survey Analysts (PASA), is an important part of FBISD’s efforts to prepare for growth on an ongoing, continuous basis. The report presented Monday once again underscored the need for the new elementary schools and the new middle school in the west and southeast parts of District… the areas that continue to see the most growth. Based on this demographic update, Fort Bend ISD is now better prepared to ensure the best learning environments possible at each of our campuses.


Teacher and Principal Compensation


Attracting and retaining the very best educators to serve our 74,000 students requires continuous planning and strong fiscal management – and I am pleased to be a part of a District that is striving to be a market leader when it comes to teacher compensation. Teachers are at the center of everything we do to inspire and equip our students, and as we prepare to staff three new schools, it is critical that we are competitive in order to keep our dedicated employees within the District – and attract others who will join us in our mission.


During Monday’s Board meeting, our Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan to increase teacher and principal pay for the 2017-18 school year. The compensation changes approved Monday are the first major decision related to developing the 2017-18 budget, and we intend to present a plan that includes pay adjustments for all full-time staff later in the spring.


The plan approved Monday will increase starting teacher pay from $50,500 to $53,000 in 2017-18, with step adjustments for current teachers. The average increase in teacher compensation is 5.1 percent. Principals will receive a market equity adjustment of approximately 6.6 percent that, combined with a 238-day contract that includes 12 paid vacation days, will make FBISD a leader in principal compensation.


In addition to the pay increases, the Board also approved $3.4 million in new campus positions for the elementary schools currently under construction.


Fiscal Planning


Due to stronger-than-anticipated state revenue in the current school year and the District’s prudent fiscal management, Fort Bend ISD expects to begin 2017-18 in solid financial shape. However, even as we continue to encourage the State Legislature to update and adequately fund the public school finance system, FBISD continues to explore additional strategies that will maximize revenues. One recommendation that has been discussed with the Board and the District’s Budget and Compensation Committee involves a “tax swap” later this year. If approved by the Board, this tax-ratification election would keep the District’s overall tax rate at its current $1.34, while swapping two pennies from the current Debt Service tax rate of $.30 to the current Maintenance and Operations Rate of $1.04.


While our overall tax rate would be unchanged, the District would receive an additional $11 million in state revenue due to the current state funding formula and additional local collections of $7.5 million. In all, this swap would result in an overall increase of about $18.5 million to our general fund – while keeping the tax rate at $1.34. As the budgeting process continues, we will continue to explore this opportunity with the Board as they explore the pros and cons of conducting a tax-ratification election in FBISD.


Our students are at the forefront of every decision we make as a District, and we appreciate your continued support.