By Karen Daniels
Each August, Stafford City Council and SMSD Board of Trustees hold a special joint budget session to adopt the year’s new budget. These boards meet monthly beginning in January to begin their work preparing the budget so that on the night of the special joint budget meeting, there are no surprises. This is also because of SMSD’s proclivity for transparency. Mayor Leonard Scarcella said, “We do what virtually no other city in Texas does, and we are proud of that.”
On the evening of this meeting the mood among the trustees and council members was festive. School had been in session for four days and the new and remodeled campuses were open for business; an instant success with students and teachers. Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt remarked that “smiles were on all the students’ faces” and that the budget was a “conservative, frugal budget that provides for our students and staff.”
After the opening remarks were made, Dr. Hindt announced that the district’s attendance, as of that day, was at 3,490. A school record. He expects the number to top out around 3,500. Last year, the average daily attendance was 3,188. In the past five years the District has grown 14%. Kids are returning to SMSD. But along with attendance, the number of economically challenged students has increased as well. In 2008/09 only 54.85% were in this category; now that number is at 68.23%.
Included in the budget is an across-the-board pay raise of 3% for teachers and staff. Seventeen million dollars, the largest portion of funds, is spent on payroll. SMSD Board of Trustees and Dr. Hindt fully believe in the importance of attracting and retaining talented teachers. At and around the schools, 240 cameras inside and out, are there to assist school police officers keeping the students safe. GPS devices will be put on buses, and eventually, the District would like to scan student ID’s at bus stops to document when/where the students get on/off. The new test scores have come out, and Stafford met all the required standards; the highest possible outcome. The elementary school earned 3 distinction awards and the high school has a 90% completion rate. There are challenges ahead, including a deficit of 778K. Also on the radar, improving math and science scores, helping students earn higher level credits for college, and exceeding with the new accountability system.
In record time (2 hours) a unanimous vote (12/0) was passed by both Boards, approving the school tax rates. The M&O rate is $1.04005 and the I&S rate is $.20995 – for a total of $1.25 – the same as last year. Mayor Scarcella thanked the SMSD Board for their hard work and for Dr. Hindt’s leadership “that brought us to a unanimous vote.” Dr. Hindt concluded the meeting with, “This team is very much like a family. Everything is in the best interest of the kids, staff, and community.