Brownwood school officials are putting the final touches on a 2007-2008 budget that places priorities on academic programs with an emphasis on science, on support of staff by improving salary schedules, on enhanced security and on fulfilling obligations as bond projects are completed.

Brownwood school trustees approved proposals Monday night that call for tax rates of $1.04 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations, and $.2307 for the interest and sinking fund to fund the $25,014,012.

While that is higher than the current year’s budget of $23,745,581, the proposed budget requires some $3.5 million less in local revenue. The proposed budget calls for $10,504,863 in local revenue (41.9 percent of the budget) and $14,415,149 in state revenue (57.6 percent). The current 2006-2007 budget required $12,746,456 in local revenue (53.67 percent of the total) and $10,905,125 in state revenue (45.92 percent).

The budget and tax rate proposals are scheduled to be adopted at a called meeting on Aug. 29, trustees said. Amendments needed to close out the current fiscal year ending Aug. 31 are also scheduled to adopted at that time.

The tax rate also reflects, for the first time, the full effects of the state’s Existing Debt Allotment funds which figured prominently in numbers used to explain the cost of a $29.4 million bond package approved by voters in February 2005. The funding is making possible major renovations and improvements at every district campus, including major reconstruction at Brownwood High and Brownwood Middle schools.

EDA funding will jump from $375,433 this fiscal year to $519,649 in 2007-2008, allowing the district to reduce the tax rate needed to fund its debt from $.2625 per $100 valuation to $.2307, a drop of more than 3 cents.

“This interest and sinking rate brings the tax rate down to the area promised when the bond issue was proposed,” Dr. Sue Jones, superintendent, said after Monday’s meeting. The rate will be about 2 cents less than had been originally anticipated when preliminary bond cost projections were made.

Almost 75 percent of the budget is dedicated to payroll, while purchases and contract expenses account for almost 11 percent. Supplies and materials consume 8.5 percent, capital outlays represent 4 percent and other operating expenses are covered by about 2 percent of the budget.

Trustees expressed the importance of supporting the faculty and staff through various salary and benefit enhancements, moves which are calculated to help attract quality new teachers and keep the ones already in the district.

The professional schedule features an $1,800 a year minimum increase in salary, while paraprofessional and auxiliary employees will see a step plus increase in pay of about 2.5 percent. An additional $38.34 per month has been budgeted for health insurance premiums.

“With decreasing the amount employees pay for health insurance, it is possible that additional employees will want to participate,” Jones said. Approximately 400 employees out of 518 currently are enrolled in the program.

The budget also makes provisions for the district to cover the 90-day waiting period at $75 a month previously paid by employees new to the district or to the health program before the state assumes that amount.

Last spring, trustees wrestled with the possibility of instituting a drug-testing process for high school and middle school students involved in extracurricular activities, but did not draft a policy for the coming school year. However, the budget adds $10,000 for counseling services needed to help students who have substance abuse issues.

Some of that funding was made possible by a $75,000 savings the district will realize next year in property insurance premiums. At Monday’s meeting, the board approved a proposal for $108,982 by Porter Insurance through Travelers. The next lowest proposal was from Key and Piskuran for $169,164. Two other bids were received that ranged up to more than $214,000.

“We feel very fortunate to have this kind of proposal,” Assistant Superintendent Kevin Gabaree said. “It’s a great benefit to the district.”

The plan includes a three-year option under an interlocal agreement that would renew the terms at a rate that would not increase by more than 5 percent a year. If a rate is quoted higher, the board indicated it could seek proposals from other firms.