FRISCO (CBSDFW.COM) – Students in the Frisco Independent School District head back to class on Monday with a couple of changes. Teachers across the district will see a slight boost in their paychecks. However, some students and parents will see themselves paying more for school activities.
Through the summer, the Frisco ISD worked on ways to make up a $30 million budget shortfall. Some of those money-saving measures are being passed onto students this year. For example, high schoolers who want to park on campus will now have to pay a $50 yearly fee. Some students will also have to shell out another $100 to $200 to participate in sports.
“It’s important for our kids to be exposed to extracurricular activities like band, sports,” said parent Chris Moore, “so we have no problem with it.”
But teachers in Frisco, including more than 400 new ones, will see a two percent pay raise. Officials said that the increase was needed to stay competitive. Salaries in neighboring school districts are expected to climb more than two percent on average. “I moved here because my sister and her husband moved here, and they moved here for the schools,” explained teacher Michelle Gersitz. “I was really excited when I moved here and got a job right away in Frisco, which is a great district.”
Schools will see no relief from overcrowding this year. The district’s board voted to delay the openings of four new campuses for another year in order to save $15 million. Other cuts include reducing technology specialists, eliminating the ninth grade PSAT and reducing the budget for school maintenance repairs.
Officials point to a failed property tax hike as the reason for its current budget woes. Last year, voters shot down a 13 cent tax increase. Critics argued that it was more money than the district actually needed. The school district has a budget of almost $500 million.
But, according to new superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip, in property-wealthy districts like the Frisco ISD, a large percentage of the generated tax money will not stay local. It goes back to the state. “People don’t know that. As property values increase in the Frisco ISD, the local taxpayer pays more of that bill, and the state pays less of that bill,” Waldrip said, “Even though those property values increase and we generate more revenue, the school district sees a lot less of that revenue. Most of that money is mitigated because of the way the state finances schools.”
Frisco is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. More than 56,000 students are in the district.
The district is also dealing with a shortage of bus drivers at the start of the new school year, even after a summer hiring push. A spokesperson said that seven new drivers are in training, but they are still not enough. Until all of the posts can be filled, the bus routes will be covered by other district employees with the appropriate training and license.
Bus driver jobs start at more than $15 per hour, with a guaranteed 25 hours per week, plus benefits. The district’s director of transportation said that it has not been easy to recruit drivers. Frisco’s booming economy leaves a lot of opportunities pulling candidates away.
“Student growth will continue and those challenges will always be there,” Waldrip explained, “but Frisco has proven itself over the years to deal with that growth very well. We’ve continued to add facilities, add quality programs and just provide a great educational experience for our kids, and I don’t see that being any different.”