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School trustees in Mineral Wells approved a balanced budget for the new school year on Thursday, dropping their tax rate by 11 cents thanks to new properties on the tax roll in the growing 4A district.

It also spends $1.1 million on a $1.5 million agriculture barn the district is paying for from existing funds rather than borrowing through bonds. The past year’s payment was $439,000.

Raises for teachers will be $299,000, with other staff such as nurses, aides and secretaries earmarked for 5-percent pay hikes. Administrators are slated for 3-percent pay hikes.

Raises were not given to teachers last year, which followed significant pay hikes under a 2015 state law that, among other things, boosted new-teacher pay from $30,00 to $45,000, Superintendent John Kuhn said before the meeting.

The budget that wraps up on Aug. 31 is expected to show a $6.5 million ending balance, Kuhn said.

The tax rate of $1.30 per $100 property value, down from $1.41 last year, will bring a $1,300 tax bill on a $100,000 home if no exemptions are claimed.

In addition to the ag barn, district debt includes continued payments on Lamar Elementary, built in 2016.

Total spending in the plan is $40.2 million. It is funded locally by slightly more than $13.2 million expected from property taxes.The state is expected to contribute nearly $23.9 million, with federal sources adding nearly $1.6 million. Smaller revenue streams total about $1 million to round out the spending plan.

Kuhn praised the work of Chief Financial Officer Paul Hearn, including refinancing of a $27.1 million bond debt that will save the district $344,000. That bond included the roughly $12 million Lamar Elementary, built in 2016. Total debt is $45.4 million, Kuhn said.

Daily operations, which does not include debt payments, is close to $34.5 million and balances with anticipated revenues.

“We’re adopting a balanced budget,” Kuhn said.

The superintendent also reported student enrollment had reached 3,230, as of Thursday, the sixth day of classes, which is around 100 more students than last year.

“I think everybody in the state was concerned about the decline in enrollment in 2021,” he said, citing concerns around the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Kuhn said the district was showing a 1.6 percent COVID positivity rate, adding the daily measurement was down from the previous day. He also said students who miss class because they quarantine with the virus are given excused absences.

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