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Pandemic hits school budgets

Challenges from COVID-19 affect EDUCATORS' outlook for 2020-2021

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New academic-year budgets passed by North Side school districts weigh how the COVID-19 pandemic affects ongoing student enrollment, staffing and tax revenues.

Many school systems are confronting challenges in providing remote instruction or a mix of on-campus classes and virtual lessons, with some teachers and parents concerned about returning to places of learning amid efforts to contain the novel coronavirus.

Districts also worry about local and state tax income because of emergency measures taken to address the outbreak, and job losses, which might impair people’s ability to pay mortgages or property taxes.

NEISD

The North East Independent School District adopted a $564.2 million general-fund budget, which contains a $6.74 million increase in instruction-related expenses.

This year’s allocation is $4.6 million lower than last year’s. NEISD is delaying raises until officials get answers concerning enrollment and state school finance.

Yet, the school board authorized Superintendent Sean Maika to decide whether to give employees retention bonuses.

District 6 Trustee Tony Jaso praised district staff for formulating a budget while unknowns created by the coronavirus outbreak remain.

“You guys do a great job given the variables you don’t have. You’ve positioned us the best way you can,” he said.

NEISD projects $553.5 million in general-fund revenue this year. The district dipped into its fund balance to equalize the new financial plan.

It also set the property-tax rate at $1.27 per $100 valuation — almost 2 cents lower than 2019-2020.

The owner of an average-valued home in NEISD should expect to pay $117 more in taxes this school year.

Enrollment, which has seen a slow decline the last few years, is about 64,000 students, according to officials.

NISD

The Northside Independent School District approved a $963.6 million general-fund budget for the 2020-2021 academic year, with $936.9 million in projected revenues.

Even after using transfers and the district fund balance, Northside ISD’s latest ledger includes an $11.5 million deficit.

“With the uncertainly related to COVID-19 and possible unanticipated expenditures to deal with delivering instruction in alternative methods, $8 million has been budgeted to assist with these expenditures,” the NISD budget executive summary states.

The district is levying a total tax rate of $1.28 per $100 valuation, a slight decrease from $1.30 last year.

NISD is the fourth largest district in Texas, with more than 100,000 students, officials said.

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