The Gilmer school board Monday night approved retaining the current school property tax rate of $1.18.5 per $100 valuation after approving a $19.4 million general fund budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The board also approved separate budgets of $1.19 million for food service and $1.2 million for debt service.
The tax rate includes $1.17 for maintenance and operations and 1.5 cents for interest and sinking (debt service.) School Supt. Rick Albritton said that when the board cut the overall rate by a penny last year, school officials had said they might raise it this year, but decided not to.
Albritton also said that although the new “lean” general fund budget is about $300,000 lower than the current one, it has 3 percent pay raises for teachers and 2 percent pay hikes for “everyone else but me.”
“Every time we give a 3 percent raise, our medical insurance goes up just about the cost of that.” He also noted that teachers’ contribution for retirement was increasing slightly this year.
Albritton additonally said the budget projects an almost 10 percent hike from current utility costs.
During a brief public hearing on the budget and tax rate, which drew no comment except some questions from a reporter, Albritton indicated the $300,000 overall budget reduction resulted from cutting such expenses as supplies and fixed assets capital outlay.
He also said the district received a little revenue from the state for an increase in teacher retirement contribution.
The budget has been lean for the past eight years, Albritton said, and the “only thing that’s changed over time” is salaries.
Introducing the new proposed general fund budget of about $19.4 million, GISD Business Manager Beverly Grimes had said, “We’ve brought back a balanced budget.” She also said the school would make part of its bond payment with funds it received from the Upshur County Commissioners Court.
Albritton said the new food service budget of salmost $1.2 million is down about $100,000 from the current budget, while the debt service budget of $1,201,000 is about the same.
In other business Monday night, the board heard school officials report on what they termed “good news”--the Texas Education Agency’s recently released accountability ratings showed that the school district as a whole and all four individual campuses met state standard, and Bruce Junior HIgh received all seven possible “distinction designations.”
Albritton told trustees that of area high schools, only White Oak and Spring Hill received more distinctions than Gilmer High’s four of a possible six, which he termed a “very good” performance.
GISD Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction Sigrid Yates said the GHS distinctions were for math, science, social studies, and being in the top 25 percent in the state in closing performance gaps.
The intermediate school also received two distinctions, for math and science, she said. Although the elementary campus earned no distinctions, Yates said all four Gilmer campuses exceeded state requirements.
The curriculum director said the “most exciting news we had” was the junior high performance.
Bruce Junior High Principal Dawn Harris told trustees “I was ecstatic” when she learned the school had received all possible seven distinctions, and that only 53 of about 1,500 junior high schools in Texas had accomplished that.
She said only two other junior high schools in Gilmer’s Region 7 had done so, and that of the 53 statewide who did, many were college preparatory and magnet schools.
“Instead of walking on cloud 9, we’re walking on cloud 7,” Harris quipped in describing her and her staff’s reaction to the news. She said a donor had pledged “he’d take care of the biggest banner I want” to announce the news.
Albritton said he was “very, very proud” of the school personnel and students for the overall results, which he termed a “great thing for the school district.”
Board member Todd Tefteller told Harris her campus’s results were “totally awesome. I’m really proud of you and that school.”
The board also Monday night reviewed possible goals for the district, which have not been adopted and are subject to change.