Fort Worth ISD trustee Anael Luebanos issued a stern yet fair statement to the superintendent and her administration: He would vote for an unbalanced budget for the 2023-24 school year, but he expects improved student outcomes.
Luebanos was one of six school board members who voted June 27 to approve a more than $1 billion budget that includes a $45 million general fund deficit. Trustees Michael Ryan and Kevin Lynch voted against, and trustee Wallace Bridges abstained.
The general fund budget, which fuels the daily operations of the district, called for more than $846.8 million in spending despite the district expecting to have $801.5 million in revenue. The gap between spending and revenue created the deficit.
Fort Worth ISD plans to dip into its $338 million in reserves to cover the deficit.
While Luebanos and Lynch voted differently, they agreed Fort Worth ISD needs a balanced budget for the 2024-25 school year.
“At the end of the day, as a trustee, I am going to hold the superintendent accountable for the scores. We’re approving this budget because we want our students to succeed,” Luebanos said.
The current state of student outcomes in Fort Worth ISD will remain unknown until later this fall when the district expects to receive students’ scores on the state’s standardized test. Fort Worth ISD saw student achievement on the test improve and bounce back to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. However, student outcomes were low before 2020.
In a separate vote, trustees also approved a $23 million compensation package that increased the starting teacher salary to $62,000 and a general pay increase of $1,925 for more experienced educators.
Other employees will see a 3% raise except for executive-level employees who received a 2% bump. The package also includes new stipends, changes to some benefits and recognition of work experience for employees, like nurses and tradesmen.
The compensation vote was 5-3. Trustees Quinton Phillips and Camille Rodriguez as well as Lynch voted against the pay raise package and Luebanos abstained.
Lynch liked some of the compensation changes trustees approved, but he emphasized the need for Fort Worth ISD to be in better financial health. The raises account for more than half of the deficit.
“Fundamentally for me, I want to see a balanced budget. I like some of the things we’re doing for some of the people in the district, but I think we need to be willing to make some concessions as a district, too,” Lynch said.
The next piece of Fort Worth ISD’s budget process is to consider and set the new property tax rate. Trustees will consider setting the rate on Aug. 22.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.