The first day of school is still about a month away, but Angie Gilbert is already getting her room ready. "I'm just trying to get a head start on things that need to be done here in the classroom," said Gilbert.
This year she'll get a little extra for her hard work. The School Board approved a three percent pay raise for all district employees. That means teachers will earn somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 more a year, depending on how long they've been teaching. "Oh I'm so excited, this is the best thing that could happen for teachers," said Gilbert.
The money for the raise isn't in the budget said Superintendent Wayne Haves, "there will be a deficit at the end of the year."
The district is dipping into the fund balance, about $30 million set aside for a rainy day. The pay raises are expected to take up about $3.6 million from that fund. The board said they were reluctant to spend the money, but with food and gas prices going up, they feel like they don't have much of a choice. "It's going to help the teachers make ends meet," said teacher, Grace Simmons.
The board admits this doesn't fix the problem of insufficient funds. The fund balance is a limited resource. They think changes need to be made at the state level. "We can't do this very many more times, and if something doesn't happen in Austin next spring, then we'll be forced to take a different type of action and go back to our community, and ask for more funding for our schools," says School Board Trustee Dan Pope.
For now, the fund balance is a temporary solution to a long term problem.
The tax rate will stay the same for now. L.I.S.D can't raise taxes without an election because they already reached the state mandated cap. Instead, they are dipping into their reserve funds.