Governor signs bill

Gov. Greg Abbott (center) signed House Bill 3 during a triumphant ceremony Tuesday at Parmer Lane Elementary School in Austin.

ROYSE CITY — The Royse City Independent School District Board of Trustees will change its employee compensation plan to add salary increases dictated by Texas House Bill 3, school finance legislation that was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Board members voted to table the changes to a future meeting on Monday night, as the bill had not yet been signed by the governor.

The school finance bill, considered by many as the most pressing issue of this year’s legislative session, will dedicate $11.6 billion to the state’s public education system, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Tribune reported that $5.1 billion of that amount will be used to help lower Texans’ property tax bills. The remaining $6.5 billion will fund school districts and teacher raises.

With the bill signed into law on Tuesday, the Royse City school board is expected to soon approve changes to its current employee compensation plan.

“We’re just waiting for the bill to be signed,” Superintendent Kevin Worthy said at the Monday school board meeting.

Jeff Robert, managing director at Hilltop Securities and RCISD’s financial advisor, presented information related to the issuance of the remaining $35 million in bonds from the $60 million bond approved by voters in May 2018.

Funds from the 2018 bond election is paying for the construction of Bobby Summers Middle School in Fate, as well as renovations to the district’s existing campuses. Trustees also received an update on the district’s potential capacity to issue future bonds.

The district is at the state’s statutory limit of $1.67 per $100 in property valuation for levying school taxes, however, citing conservative projections on future tax base and enrollment growth used in his analysis, Robert told trustees that RCISD may potentially be able to go to voters with a bond election earlier than what had been previously projected.

The primary factor in the district’s ability to increase its bond capacity, Robert said, is the likely future growth in residential and commercial taxpayers that would allow the school district to maintain its current debt service tax rate to accommodate potential future bond election authorizations needed to fund projects related to future student population growth.

District officials have reported a total student population of 6,252 for the 2018-19 school year.

Byron Bryant, the district’s chief financial officer, said he saw Robert’s report as a positive one, as it allows RCISD to better accommodate growth.

“We would never try to pass another bond until the student growth gets to a point where we need a new building; I don’t know when that will be,” Bryant said, “If we continue to grow like we are right now, it would be relatively soon. There is a plan in place to where if our students keep growing we won’t have to put them in portables.”

Education & Special Projects / Royse City Reporter

Hojun Choi is a native of Houston and a graduate of University of Texas at Austin, where he studied journalism and worked as a reporter at The Daily Texan. To reach him outside of business hours, email HChoiReporter@gmail.com.