Black budgets, tax cuts and pay raises

SISD receives ‘C’ accountability rating, two campuses receive ‘B’ rating

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The Sealy ISD Board of Trustees met for the first time with students in school during the 2019-2020 year and new assistant superintendent Chris Summers relayed the recently released district and campus accountability ratings.

“The district did have an overall C rating this year,” Summers told the board. “A 78 was the score we came out at, just a slight tick better than last year, as a district we were rated a 77, a C as well.”

He added, however, that this year the Texas Education Agency also doled out grades for specific campuses and there were some positive takeaways there as well.

“We had two campuses that were a B which were Selman Elementary and Sealy High School and the junior high came in with a middle-C score, a 76,” said Summers. “Sealy Elementary is our D, which is sort of deceiving because it looks like it’s just by a point but in the 69, there’s more that factors into it than just one point on one test or one section.”

He went on to explain that the scores are not necessarily an exact average but that a formula takes into consideration a host of factors and churns out a number score.

“You look at student achievement, academic growth and relative performance and whichever one is the highest, that’s the one you get credit for so that’s why you see some schools might really struggle with achievement or relative performance but if they had a lot of growth, they can actually be a B but the other two grades could be a D,” Summers said. “Then they have another ratio after that that takes this chunk of schools and if it was an average C score, they assign it a 78 or a 76 … those numbers create a number and then they put them into a formula that gives us either a high- or middle-C.”

Superintendent Sheryl Moore noted that those letter grades might not be exactly where they want to be but that they still bode well for the future.

“We’re going in the right direction, two campuses came in at a B, overall we received for B for a district in student achievement and that’s huge,” Moore said following the meeting. “The two things that held us back is the continuity between the two elementary schools and we addressed that by hiring a math

and ELA coordinator whose job is it is to make sure that those two are on pace together. The B in overall student achievement, I am thrilled with that.”

Also during the meeting board president Ryan Reichardt said he was pleased with the budget and tax rates the trustees passed thanks to the work of Chief Financial Officer Lisa Svoboda, noting his excitement about “A balanced budget, lower taxes and pay raises.”

House Bill 3 allows the district’s M&O tax rate (maintenance and operations) to compress down to 97 cents and although the I&S (interest and sinking) jumps up two cents to 30, the overall rate of $1.27 is still 12 cents lower than the past two years.

“We’ll be looking at an $836,000 reduction in tax revenue, the majority of that is made up from the state,” Svoboda told the board during the public hearing that preceded the regular board meeting. “Our final budget status at the proposed rates that you will be voting on; the M&O projection is at 97 cents, total funds available $27.5 million with expenditures at $25.7 million, leaving us with a green budget of $34,935. The little over $600,000 of surplus, last July you voted to give a majority of that to teacher raises so factoring that in we’re looking at a surplus of $34,000.”

“With the I&S at 30 cents, we’ve got $4.2 million in total funds with $4.1 million in expenditures leaving a $36,000 change in the fund balance,” Svoboda said.

Both the budget and tax rates passed with 7-0 votes and Moore reiterated afterward that Svoboda and the rest of the team were able to come together and knock it out of the park.

“I am thrilled, it’s kind of an unknown year with House Bill 3, although there’s some really good things, there are a lot of unknowns,” Moore said after the meeting. “The fact that we came out with a black budget, gave the teachers a raise and cut taxes was hard work but I think we’re just good stewards of the public’s money. We can never pay teachers what I think they ought to be paid but it’s good we were able to give them a raise and hopefully we’ll be able to give them even more next year when the unknowns will be known.”

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