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State budget agreement announced

posted May 21, 2019, 6:53 AM by Granger Meador   [ updated May 24, 2019, 1:07 AM ]
Reports of a state budget deal for the 2020 fiscal year is good news for the school district. The agreement between Governor Stitt, House Speaker McCall, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat is to provide a $157.7 million increase for common education. The agreement should fund:
  • $1,220 average teacher pay raise
    • Bartlesville will again provide the full mandated raise to its certified staff PLUS enhance that by paying the employees' mandated 7% contribution to the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System  (OTRS) on top of the district's own required 9.5% contribution to OTRS
    • The raise will be permanent and not a one-time stipend despite it not being a change in the minimum salary schedule 
    • How the raise is distributed across the schedule will be determined in the summer bargaining process of the Bartlesville Education Association and the district; each district can give it across-the-board or provide different levels of raises across the steps and lanes of its schedule, so long as it certifies the overall average raise is $1,220 or more
    • The annual increase in the Flexible Benefit Allowance for teachers' health insurance was funded for $15.3 million
    • Contrary to some claims, this will likely not result in Oklahoma average teacher pay being first in the region since Texas is expected to provide its own teacher raise, but it will keep the state's teacher salaries competitive amidst a record teacher shortage with about 3,000 emergency certified teachers across Oklahoma, including over 20 in Bartlesville
  • $74.3 million through the funding formula to local districts
BPSD will use the formula funding to address the previously published 2019-20 budget priorities:
  • Fully fund a step increase for all teachers and classified staff
  • Initiate the ATLAS elementary alternative program for 24 students, funding a teacher and teacher assistant while Grand Lake Mental Health provides a behavior health coach and a certified mental health therapist
  • Provide a Secondary Technology Integration Specialist to support Canvas, Chromebooks, and more across the three secondary schools
  • Initiate the Agriculture Education program with a first teacher; over 100 students have already enrolled across the two middle schools and BHS
  • Provide an assistant principal for Wayside, the district's largest elementary school, which is now larger than Central Middle School and serves over 1/4 of the district's elementary students
  • Improve class sizes: upper elementary class sizes were already projected to improve as a larger 5th-grade cohort advances to the middle schools, but the district expects to hire two more elementary school teachers as it lowers the class size target for upper elementary grades from 28 to 25
Currently projecting a slight decline in the fund balance
The district was already facing a $440,000 reduction in state aid in 2019-20 due to enrollment drops in previous years; district funding is based on the highest weighted average daily membership over the past three years. 

All of the projected new revenue from the state will likely NOT be sufficient to fully cover:
  • the mandated raises with benefits
  • the loss in state aid due to past enrollment changes
  • funding the budget priorities
Consequently, the district fund balance is currently projected to decline by about $150,000. All projections are subject to change as details on the state funding and other data materialize.

Building fund improvements should help
The district's building fund has been burdened with lease purchase interest payments, but those will end this summer. The consequent improving balance in the building fund should provide the district enough flexibility that the projected drop in the General Fund's balance is not a major concern.

Bond issues will remain vital
Because the General Fund balance is expected to drop, the district will remain heavily reliant on current and future bond issues to meet operating costs for technology hardware and services, maintenance, curricular purchases, and so forth. Voters will be asked to consider a new bond issue on August 13, 2019 to provide funding for bondable operational costs as well as facility improvements.

Even with the increase in state funding, Oklahoma will remain last in the region in per-pupil funding. Continued increases in state funding will be needed.
Budget agreement photo
Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, Governor Kevin Stitt, State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister, and Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall announced a state budget agreement on May 15, 2019