RUSK – After swearing in its newest trustee, David Fulton, the Rusk ISD school board got down to business Monday, getting things in line for an upcoming public hearing on a proposed tax rate and the budget it will fund for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The hearing is slated for Aug. 26, and focuses on a proposed per-$100-property-valuation tax rate of $1.08, “seven cents lower than the previous year due to the state compression of the M&O tax,” which RISD has proposed at 97 cents, while “our I&S is the same as last year,” or 11.25 cents, explained Grey Burton, Rusk ISD superintendent.

Meanwhile, the budget for the Rusk schools “is almost identical to last year's with the exception of the HB3 state increase and subsequent increase in salaries,” he added. “Our proposed budget is $20,397,824. Last year's budget was $17,961,720, an increase of 13.56 percent.”

Texas House Bill 3, implemented earlier during the summer, provides salary increases for school district employees.

In Rusk, which is expects to see an additional $2.3 million in revenue from the state, the funds will be disbursed primarily as teacher salary increases, Burton said.

“(Of the total amount) $1.5 million is for our classroom teachers. We built our compensation plan to 'reward' our tenured teachers, especially those who have remained with the district for a number of years,” he said, adding that trustees also have “included a recruiting stipend for teachers new to the district and retention stipends for teachers at years 2-5, 6-11, and 12 and more. The average salary increase for teachers in years 0 to 5 is $5,858; in years 6-11 $8,488; and 12 and more years, $10,763.”

Meanwhile, he added, “teachers at step 20 with 12 years of experience in the district will make $62,040. This does not include our yearly incentive pay that we will continue to fund. Our veteran teachers have the opportunity to receive a total compensation of $67,340,” he said.

In a separate, but related action, trustees approved a district compensation plan for the upcoming school year.

“We committed an additional $2 million to staff salaries; a five percent raise for all administrators; 10 percent for all auxiliary staff (employees other than classroom teachers or administrators) and teacher increase ranging from 11.5 percent (first-year teacher) to 22 percent (for a teacher with 20 or more years),” Burton said.

Board members also took action on two separate items impacting the student body, unanimously approving a Student Code of Conduct as well as a Student Handbook.

“The Code of Conduct is required to be adopted every year by the state. The Handbook is not required but I asked the board to adopt it this year to make certain we are aligning our procedures and practices to their vision for the district,” the superintendent said. “Those two documents encompass all the policies and procedures we have in place. It’s everything a parent or student would need to know. The handbook is general district information for the students and parents covering all aspects not related to discipline. The code of conduct pertains only to student behavioral expectations and consequences when those expectations are not met.”

Also during the meeting, the board approved TASB Policy Update 113 (LOCAL), as well as hired 10 new employees, two of whom will serve in teacher/coach capacity.