The Sherman Independent School District’s board of trustees approved a $64.2 million general budget Monday for the 2017-2018 school year, signed off on raises for all district staff and approved tentative plans to keep property tax rates unchanged.

Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tyson Bennett led the financial discussions of the meeting and said summer is a busy time for the district because that is when the budget-influencing variables of property values and averaged daily attendance come into full view.

“The deal is that you don’t know enough about revenue until you get to the end of the year,” Bennett said.

In a presentation to the board, Bennett broke down the $64,204,316 general budget for the 2017-2018 school year. Of the available funds, $38.9 million will go toward instruction, $6.7 million will be spent on maintenance and operations, $4 million will go to food service and an estimated $8 million will be devoted to debt repayment.

Bennett pointed to the district’s steadily-growing student population, aggressive debt payments and a debt to taxable value ratio of 2.3 percent as indicators of Sherman ISD’s overall financial well-being and expressed added confidence in the proposed budget as a result.

“The district is very strong financially,” Bennett said. “It has been for years, particularly on the (maintenance and operation) side and on the debt side too.”

The board unanimously approved the 2017-2018 budget but didn’t stop there. The trustees also put their unanimous seal of approval on the district’s proposed employee compensation plan for the upcoming school year.

The recruiting and retaining of teachers and staff was listed as one of the top budgetary priorities of Sherman ISD for the coming school year. Under the approved plan, district educators will receive a 3.09 percent midpoint raise, which translates to roughly $1,635 in additional annual income.

Bennett said the district hopes the extra pay will further convince teachers to stick with the district, even in the face of temptation from higher salaries to the south.

“The competition is all over,” Bennett said. “We don’t want to focus on just Grayson County. We have competition from the Metroplex area. So, we had to look at our salary structure and we have to remain competitive so that we can recruit and retain high-quality staff.”

The compensation plan is also set to boost the salary of first-year educators from $46,000 to $47,000 and includes fund a 3 percent raise for district staff.

Finally, the school board approved plans to keep property tax rates at $1.44 per $100 valuation. The rate has remained the same since 2006 and $1.17 of the tax will go to the district’s maintenance and operations (M&O), while the remaining 27 cents is slated for debt service or interest and sinking (I&S).

The board gave a preliminary nod to the rate but is expected to return to formally adopt the rate shortly after the Grayson County Central Appraisal Districts’s chief appraiser releases the certified property values, an announcement that is expected by July 30.