By Karen Daniels
This month’s joint budget meeting between Stafford’s City Council and Stafford’s School Board of Trustees began with congratulations to Dr. Lance Hindt who was awarded his doctorate in education. Not an easy task to accomplish while running a district. Way to go Dr. Hindt!
As the meeting proceeded, SMSD’s CEO, Carla Merka showed the projected school budget based on the numbers that she had before her. And based on those numbers, the 2012/2013 budget looks great; however, Mayor Scarcella warned that the increase is flawed. As it stands, Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) home values took a slight dip, but FBCAD home values have increased by 14.95%. Getting comfortable with this number is what the Mayor warned against. Merka explained that she called Patsy Schultz’ office, however, they could not give a count of how many protests had been filed in Fort Bend County. With electronic filing, one would think these numbers would be right at their fingertips. It was the Mayor’s prediction that the district would see a gain from FBCAD, but most likely in the 5% range.
On the subject of pay raises, several options were presented to the Boards. One was for a straight 3% raise for all district employees. This option is what Stafford MSD administration is recommending. The other two options are for a 1% increase with a one-time payout of $800; or a 2% increase with a one-time payout of $750.
These options were presented in case the economy doesn’t recover as quickly as predicted, not locking the district into the higher increase in case of budget troubles. “Staying competitive” with other districts was stressed several times during the meeting by Dr. Hindt and Mayor Scarcella. Going with the 3% increase would help close the pay gap between Stafford and other nearby districts.
Fort Bend ISD announced a 3% increase; HISD will give approximately 1.5%; Pearland 2.5%, and Alief is considering a 1% increase. Currently, the highest paid teachers of these districts is Alief. The new budget for Stafford MSD will be voted on in late August.