Officials to balance school budget

RAYMONDVILLE — Officials will dip into cash reserves to balance the school district’s new budget, which includes employee raises.

School board members have approved the $21.9 million budget in which expenditures exceed revenues by $558,871.

Officials plan to take money out of the district’s $6.9 million reserve fund to make up the difference, Christy Gonzalez, the district’s chief financial officer, said yesterday.

The previous year’s fund balance, she said, stood at $6.9 million.

Superintendent Johnny Pineda said the district’s finances remain strong.

“We’ve been fiscally sound,” Pineda said. “We have a healthy fund balance as we go forward.”

Officials did not propose a property tax increase.

In August, school board members are scheduled to approve the district’s tax rate.

The new budget includes a salary package of about $380,000.

Board members approved average raises of about $1,000 for the district’s 146 teachers while giving its 71 other employees average raises of about 3 percent.

Pineda recommended the pay increases, part of a program developed with the Texas Association of School Boards, to bring teacher salaries closer to state averages.

Student enrollment stood at 2,023 at the close of the fiscal year ending Thursday.

Since at least the mid 1990s, enrollment has continued to drop.

During the 2014-2015 school year, enrollment reached 2,107, the Texas Education Agency’s website shows.

But about 40 new students enrolled last year, Pineda said.

“(Last) year was an anomaly,” he said.

Pineda said the district’s new full-day kindergarten classes and the closure of an Ignite charter school helped boost enrollment numbers.

The new budget maintains last year’s staffing levels, Gonzalez said.

Pineda said $180,000 was earmarked to launch a new program offering students college-level courses.

As part of the program, all ninth grade students will be among high school students eligible to take courses offering college credits, Pineda said.

“I’m hoping students will take advantage of this,” Pineda said. “It’s a tremendous boost for students and their families.”