HISD Board approves $2B budget, pay increases for teachers, stipends for employees

HISD Bord members consider $2 million budget among coronavirus expenses

HOUSTON – The Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a $2 billion budget in a 7-2 vote Thursday evening that includes $34.4 million salary and benefits package as well as an increase in employer contribution to health insurance premiums for employees.

Here’s what is included in the approved salary and benefits package:

  • Employees whose salaries are based on the teacher salary placement table, will see a step movement plus a 1.5% one-time retention stipend based on the employees’ new 2020-2021 annual salary
  • Employees on the master scale, will see a one-time $500 retention stipend adjusted for their work-time percentage
  • Bus drivers, crossing guards and food service attendants, will see a one-time $500 retention stipend adjusted for their work-time percentage

“The tax rate in HISD’s 2020-2021 budget is slated to be a maximum of $1.1331 for every $100 of property valuation, down a fraction from last year’s $1.1367,” officials wrote in a release.

Planning for an academic year amid coronavirus has been of some concern said district II trustee, Kathy Blueford-Daniels.

“When we’re looking at the budget, it’s based on a normal school year,” Blueford-Daniels said. “Nothing going on now is normal, so we have to be able to make adjustments where applicable.”

District officials said Thursday evening in a release that the actual cost of coronavirus in the next fiscal year remains uncertain.

“Classes may resume in-person, take place on staggered attendance days to facilitate social distancing, or continue virtually or a combination of staggered days and virtual instruction,” officials wrote.

However, with each option, HISD will have to account for unique costs including sanitation practices, bus routes, computers and hotspots for students, and personal protective equipment for students and staff.

“HISD’s fund balance, equivalent to the district’s savings account, would have to be tapped to pay for COVID-related expenses since there is no other funding available at this time," officials wrote.

“Every student needs to have a device in order to be able to get in via Zoom or Microsoft Teams,” said District VII trustee Anne Sung. “If we are back in school, we need to be providing students and faculty, all employees with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, all of those things are very expensive.”

According to Sung, with access to the district’s fund balance, additional coronavirus-related expenses won’t cause a cash flow problem, they will however be a strain on the budget and the district will be looking to the state for relief.

“Right now, there is no reimbursement mechanism from the state for the coming school year, for these additional expenses,” Sung said.

Although HISD’s budget must be approved by June 30, that does not mean it is set in stone, according to Blueford-Daniels. The board plans to re-visit the budget at least once during the fiscal year, to make adjustments if necessary.

“As part of the 2020-2021 budget, HISD will also be required to send $12 million in “excess revenue” to the state of Texas since the district’s revenues will exceed its entitlement under the new school finance system,” district officials wrote.

Also in the budget

  • $4.6 million was approved for a program for at-risk students with physical and emotional needs that could impede their educational outcomes
  • A $600,000 grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council was approved to help pay for 10 new buses in the HISD bus fleet as part of the Clean Vehicle Act to help reduce air pollution