AP NEWS

Town hall focus: Budget overview

March 28, 2019

The goal of the first-ever Pearland ISD Town Hall meeting on Tuesday was to demonstrate more transparency on information regarding the district’s tax rate, budget and plan moving forward.

At the meeting — one two the district will stage each year — Chief Financial Officer Jorgannie Carter presented details about the $176.9 million budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to a gathering of about two dozen teachers and parents, including Pearland City Council members Tony Carbone and Trent Perez, at Turner College and Career High School.

Mike Floyd, the district trustee who had spearheaded efforts to begin town hall meetings, spoke at the session about transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

“We just want to thank so many of our community members that are here who care so much about their community,” he said.

Also at the meeting were Superintendent John Kelly, board president Rebecca Decker and the other trustees — Charles Gooden Jr., Jeff Barry, Lance Botkin, Crystal Carbone and Sean Murphy.

Carter spelled out details about finances for the district, which has 2,724 employees. About 86 percent of the budget accounts for payroll that includes salary and benefits, health and life insurance, overtime pay and money for substitute teachers, with over 46 percent of the revenue coming from local property taxes.

The district tax rate of $1.4145 per $100 valuation is the third-lowest among seven area districts, with Friendswood and Clear Creek having lower rates, according to a district PowerPoint presentation at the meeting. The other four — Galena Park, Deer Park, Pasadena, Alvin — have higher tax rates than Pearland.

The tax rate per $100 valuation is divided in two portions — $1.06 for maintenance and operations and 35.5 cents for debt service. The district will make $30.3 million in debt-service payments for the current fiscal year, Carter said. The amount due for debt service will go up by $3.3 million for the next fiscal year to start covering principal and interest from bonds issued in February, she said.

By the 2032-33 school year, the district’s annual debt payment will decrease to about $16 million as bonds are payed off, she said.

Including property taxes, the school district brings in $175.3 million in general operating revenue. About $83 million of the revenue is from local property taxes and other local sources, $90.5 million from the state government including contributions to the state teacher retirement system, and an additional $2.1 million comes from the federal government.

Barry took time to talk about the district’s new student advisory committee that recently had its first meeting.

“It was an amazing event. Unfortunately, not all the board members can’t participate due to certain laws and restrictions, but we had three of our board members there and it was a very interesting conversation, trying to understand the culture of excellence within our school district from a graduate’s perspective,” he said.

Kelly spoke about proposed state house and senate bills, saying both look good for the school district but that the “devil is in the details.”

“After doing this job for so long, you really don’t know what they’re actually going to do until after the session,” he said. “We’re kind of waiting on the state to make some key decisions.”

“Then we’re waiting on the legislatures to give us a better idea as the house and the senate come together and work out their comprise between their two bills.”

The board members said that there will be a second town hall meeting, but no date has been set.

To watch the entire town hall meeting, click here.

tyler.johnson@chron.com