Thursday, November 21, 2019

Trustees Protect Classroom, Adopt 2011-2012 Budget

The Carroll School Board approved an $82 million operating budget that protects the classroom from program and personnel cuts and does not rely on fund balance to make up a deficit.

Trustees will utilize three revenue sources – $1.9 million in Build America Bond Subsidies (BABS), $1.1 million in EduJobs funds and a $2 million State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) solar energy grant – to cover a $4.8 million operating deficit. School officials say these funding sources are critical to maintaining exemplary programs as the district anticipates a $9 million state funding loss over the next biennium. Work will begin in September on a 2-5 year plan to address the district’s future financial situation.

The 2011-2012 approved budget does not require a tax rate increase nor does it include employee pay raises. However, Trustees have discussed a one-time supplemental payment to employees to help offset rising insurance premiums. The Board took no action Monday, but hopes to consider options for a possible one-time payment, in the near future. Trustees discussed utilizing an anticipated Oncor energy rebate ($683,000) to cover the cost.

Trustees held several budget workshops this summer trying to analyze how changes to the state funding system will affect Carroll Independent School District. After release of the state’s fourth template, CISD is expected to lose more than $9 million in state funding over the biennium. Most of the first year’s deficit can be offset by one-time revenue sources, but the Board had already asked the Administration to cut $622,732 from the operating budget.

This is the second year the CISD budget has not included a general pay increase for employees, though classroom teachers and some certified positions did receive a step increase mandated by the state last year. Trustees who are concerned about rewarding and retaining quality personnel must also weigh those concerns against state funding losses and fund balance requirements.

Trustees are working diligently to reduce expenditures, maximize revenues and minimize the reliance on fund balance to cover future deficits.

In 2009, the Administration implemented an Expenditure Reduction Plan designed to educate employees and the taxpayers about the Texas school funding crisis. During that process, employees helped identify ways to cut the budget and increase revenue sources. As a result, the Administration cut $1.1 million in annual operating expenses. Lower student enrollment resulted in the loss of 13.5 teaching positions for an additional $775,000 drop in annual operating expenses. The position cuts were made through resignations, retirements and reassignments.

CISD Trustees then asked the Administration to prioritize the remaining expenditure reduction ideas and survey parents and taxpayers about their thoughts. Results of that survey are available on the district’s website by clicking on the Expenditure Reduction icon. Trustees have ultimately tried to avoid personnel or program cuts that would affect students’ services.

Some of the ideas still being discussed include a transportation fee that could be applied to all CISD bus riders to help offset the district’s $2 million transportation budget. CISD receives no state funding for transportation services and some Trustees have indicated they would rather give parents an opportunity to pay more for this service than to cut routes like some districts have had to do. Legislation passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature would make a transportation fee for all riders possible, but due to the timing, Trustees say it will likely be next year before such a measure could be implemented.

Other expenditure reduction and/or revenue enhancement ideas on the table include a student participation fee, changes to block scheduling and teaming, a shift of the fiscal year (one-time savings) and the sale of surplus CISD property. The district’s overall goal is to balance the budget using a 2-5 year plan.