The Santa Gertrudis Independent School District Board of Trustees approved adopting the district’s budget and tax rate for the 2019-20 academic year last Wednesday, with anticipated revenues exceeding expenditures for the first time since 2016-17.

During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, the SGISD school board approved budgets that included projected deficits that resulted from the loss of Additional State Aid in Tax Reduction, or ASATR, funding as the state phased out the program.

The district managed to offset the majority of those deficits, however, through state hardship grants. Last year, the district adopted a budget where expenditures exceeded revenues by about $276,000.

During a public hearing held last Wednesday, SGISD Business Director Amanda Ramirez presented the school board the district’s 2019-20 proposed budget, with  $8,417,680 in projected revenue and $8,207,680 in expenditures.

“As you can see, we’re going to end up with $210,000 (added to) our fund balance if all goes well for us,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the proposed budget includes the salary increases for teachers and district aides that the board approved in early August, along with several expenditures they had discussed in June.

Proposed expenditures include about $120,000 for the purchase and operational costs for a school bus, $23,000 for an additional bus driver, $100,000 for new furniture, $165,000 for technology and classroom instruction, $30,000 for HVAC and plumbing upgrades, $25,000 for Mariachi uniforms, $10,000 for security and safety upgrades and cybersecurity training, $15,000 for additional food service staff and $5,000 for 2020 school board election expenses.

“So even purchasing all of those items, we still have $210,000 that we decided we’re going to put in the fund balance,” SGISD Superintendent Veronica Alfaro said to the board. “It’s good to know that it’s there in case something major breaks down.”

Ramirez said with House Bill 3, the district should have “another golden year” in 2020, and administration has been discussing “planning for the future.”

“We can take a lot of this excess revenue and talk about future construction,” she said. “And we can start building up to that point where we are using the excess revenue to hire those architects and those engineers that are going to help us build the future.”

Alfaro said with the loss of its tuition-transfer agreement with Driscoll ISD in 2015, followed by the elimination of ASATR funding from the state, “the last four or five years have been a little tough.”

“We didn’t know what this year was going to bring,” Alfaro said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, and Santa Gertrudis was truly blessed with HB3. It was a win-win for us.”

The board approved adopting the 2019-20 budget with a 6-0 unanimous vote. Trustee Flo Falcon was not present for last week’s meeting.

The school board also adopted, 6-0, the district’s 2019-20 tax rate, with the combined rate set at $1.29284 per $100 valuation. This year’s rate is a seven-cent decrease from last year’s rate of $1.3648.

A school district’s combined tax rate is comprised of separate rates for maintenance and operations (M&O), which is utilized in salaries, utility bills and general operations, and interest and sinking (I&S), which is for repayment of debt.

Santa Gertrudis ISD decreased in both the M&O and I&S rates this year. The M&O rate dropped from $1.04 to $0.97, as per the tax rate compression implemented through the 86th Texas Legislature’s House Bill 3 that was passed and signed into law in June.

The I&S rate fell slightly from $0.3248 per $100 valuation to $0.32284. This year’s bond payment, including interest, will be $684,412, with the total remaining debt scheduled to be paid off by Fiscal Year 2023.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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