THREE RIVERS – Three Rivers Independent School District’s Board of Trustees was able to dish out a double dose of good news following its meeting on Monday, Aug. 5 — an anticipated lower tax rate for local homeowners and a 3.5 percent pay increase for most of the district’s employees.

“We’re expecting a tax rate decrease, so the owner of an average-priced $80,000 home in Three Rivers will be able to save money,” said school board President Karl Arnst.

The tax rate will be further discussed at a TRISD budget hearing at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the TRISD board room to get public input.

Based on preliminary estimates, the tax rate will be about 14 cents lower (per $100 home valuation) than for the previous fiscal year.

Superintendent Les Dragon proposed a rate of $1.08980 per $100 valuation. That includes 97 cents for maintenance and operations and 0.11980 for the interest and sinking fund. That fund, also know as I&S, is “tax revenue used to pay for bonded debt on construction, equipment, or both,” according to information provided by the district. The bonds — as well as the tax rate necessary to pay those bonds, were approved by voters within the district.

The board also approved the pay raises in part based on extra funding that the state has provided to boost teacher salaries.

While some politicians gained public acclaim for proposing up to $5,000 across the board teacher raises, Dragon noted that the state didn’t provide quite enough funding to make that vision a reality.

The state has not budgeted the funds to sustain pay increases — and continuing increases, meaning school districts, which also are affected by property tax rate restrictions, will have to cary the burden over the long-term.

“The state really threw us a curveball by promising $4,000 to $5,000 raises,” Dragon said. “I would like to give everybody something if possible.”

The board was able to nearly accomplish that, with a few exceptions. For example, some administrators whose salary was negotiated will not receive the pay increase, nor will those who are still working to resolve certification issues. The raises will be given to full-time employees, but will not apply to those who work part-time.

“We wanted to provide as much as we could to as many staff members as possible,” Dragon said.

The board is also considering additional benefits and stipends to boost staff salaries.

“We have to be smart about what’s best for our employees,” Dragon said.

In other action, the board:

• Discussed hiring Sandy Villarreal as interim principal for the high school/junior high. Villareal served as interim principal of the Three Rivers Elementry School for the spring of 2019. She is the school board president for Runge ISD.

• Endorsed Mathis ISD school board member Moises Alfaro as a candidate for the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors.

• Voted to hire Singleton Clark and Company of Cedar Park as the district’s auditor for the next fiscal year. Dragon said this company also performed the audit for the previous fiscal year. 

One area that was targeted for improvement is ensuring principals and teachers turn in purchase orders in a timely manner, Dragon said.

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.