It took just over 14 minutes for the Temple school board to approve their $115.9 million budget for the 2020-21 academic year Monday evening.

This is a near $4.5 million increase in total expenditures from the district’s budget for the 2019-20 academic year. The largest shift is in instruction with an increase of about $3.1 million.

District educators will receive a 2.7 percent average raise, while remaining staff will receive a 1.5 percent raise. Superintendent Bobby Ott repeatedly told the Telegram how these pay increases — an additional $3.5 million for staff compensation, positions and equity adjustments — will provide staff comparable salaries to area school districts.

Nearly $96.5 million was budgeted for the district’s general fund, $5.1 million for the food service fund and $14.4 million for the debt service fund. And about $946,000 is expected to go into Temple ISD’s fund balance reserves.

“This year we are able to take this conservative approach because we prepared an aggressive compensation plan last year,” Ott said. “The average amount contributed to staff raises in the last two years is $5 million per year.”

Kallen Vaden, Temple ISD’s chief financial officer, highlighted how compensation is always one of the district’s priorities when developing a budget.

“As we begin this process, compensation is always one of our priorities. We’re in the people business and we want people to know that they are valued,” she said. “We want to make sure that we place emphasis on it.”

Vaden noted how Temple ISD is seeing an increase of about $4.2 million in local and state revenues, while experiencing a $559,000 decrease in federal revenues.

“Even though there is an overall increase of about $4.2 million that does not mean that is all new money. But of that, $500,000 is actually new money for operations going into next school year,” Vaden said.

Ott previously noted how the adopted budget will allow the district to maintain a relatively “flat tax rate” — a rate that could potentially drop even lower during Temple ISD’s tax rate adoption in September. However, increased property appraisals throughout the county will still force most taxpayers to pay more.

“Temple ISD sold the remaining bonds in 2015, which naturally increased the debt side of the total tax rate,” Ott said. “However, this was strategically offset by the tax compression on the maintenance side of the total tax rate. It also puts us in a good position when growth inevitably determines the need for a future bond and additional schools.”

Kent Boyd, Temple ISD assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said this year’s budgeting process was good, and he’s appreciative of everyone involved.

“This is where it all comes together, and some years are together more than others,” he said. “We had to work through a few things but it was not tremendously difficult.”

But Boyd and other district personnel are forecasting a likely difficult process next year due to the coronavirus and resulting economic troubles.

“We do anticipate a difficult process next year. Not just Temple ISD but every public school,” Boyd said. “So we’re also trying to get a balanced budget but also trying to plan for the future and not put ourselves into a position where we create more challenges and heartaches as a district a year from now.”

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