Survey respondents in the Carroll Independent School District say they do not support the elimination of school bus transportation, a reduction in extracurricular programs or a tax ratification election that would send more than half of their local tax dollars back to Austin. They would, however, support the sale of Carroll Intermediate School, a shift in the district’s fiscal year and changes to student scheduling and team teaching periods over the restructuring of special programs for students like science labs, CARE reading and QUEST.
CISD School Board members met for a special meeting Monday evening to hear results of an online public survey about the district’s budget forcast. More than 1,500 people took part in the unscientific survey, which measured attitudes about proposed expenditure reduction and revenue enhancement ideas submitted during brainstorming sessions by school staff last year.
An executive summary from last night’s presentation and charts of the survey results are now available from the district’s main website at http://www.southlakecarroll.edu/er.aspx. Simply look for the ER Survey icon just below the main photo/video box on the CISD website.
The deadline to participate in the non-scientific web survey was midnight on Friday, November 12. More than 50 percent of the survey participants have elementary-age students and nearly 70% are taxpayers. Less than 400 employees took part in the survey. Officials say results show that participants are well-versed on the district’s financial situation and most agree with the steps the School Board has already taken to trim $2.1 million from the operating deficit.
Respondents voiced strong concerns against increasing class sizes and lost educational services for students. They voiced support for a community-wide check writing campaign, a CISD Dragon retail store, additional administrative cuts and the reinstatement of an activity fee for all 7-12 students involved in extracurricular/co-curricular activities.
Although against a general tax ratification election to raise taxes subject to Chapter 41 (Robin Hood) recapture, survey respondents said they would support a two-cent tax election knowing that all of the monies generated (about $1 million) would remain local. School officials say Trustees made no decisions Monday evening, but will have to begin to tackle the expenditure reductions that might affect scheduling, programs and personnel in early 2011.
Carroll ISD Administrators embarked on a multi-year expense reduction process last fall, giving presentations on the district’s financial outlook at each of the district’s campuses and departments, as well as at PTO meetings and to civic groups. Employees were asked to brainstorm expenditure reduction and revenue generating ideas in an effort to help reduce a $4.3 million operating budget. After about 16 public presentations, multiple campus-based staff brainstorming sessions and budget manager meetings to prioritize options, the Administration made recommendations to the Board that reduced the budget deficit to about $2.1 million. The Board agreed at that time to approve the 2010-2011 budget with plans to utilize money in the reserve account to balance the current budget.
CISD is not alone in their frustrations with the Texas school finance system. More than 60 percent of the public school districts in the state have had to dip into their reserve accounts to balance their budgets. Facing cuts in personnel and programs, many districts were unable to give salary increases, and instead had to make significant cuts just to operate this school year.
Trustees will ultimately have the responsibility of considering all the information before them, including results of the public survey, before making hard decisions for the 2011-2012 budget. By law, the Board must approve a budget by the end of August.
Despite efforts to reduce spending, increase revenues and add energy efficiency initiatives in 2010-2011, Carroll ISD is still facing a $2 million budget deficit, with no signs of help at the state level. The Texas Legislature is grappling with budget woes of their own as they convene in 2011 to address an $18-$21 billion deficit. Carroll Trustees hope to gain legislative support in an effort to avoid additional cuts to public education funding. Taxpayers are encouraged to write a letter to their state legislators and drop it in the boxes located at each CISD school. Letters will be hand delivered to Austin by CISD officials in January. (More About Texas School Finance)