by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Coming down to the wire of the March 25 deadline to announce layoffs for contract positions, Hays CISD trustees are preparing to make a ﬁnal decision Thursday of which employees will be axed in anticipation of state funding reductions.
“Nobody is happy with any of this, and that’s the honest to god truth,” said Hays CISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon. “No one is happy with any of these cuts.”
With Texas facing a $27 billion shortfall over the next biennium, school districts across the state are turning to increasingly desperate measures to balance their own budgets in light of anticipated funding cuts. By some estimates, up to 100,000 Texas school district employees could lose their jobs in the next two years.
Initial proposals suggested that the rapidly-growing Hays district could lose as much as $24 million in state funding. The most recent budget ﬂoating around the Senate suggests that Hays can expect a $9 million reduction in 2011 and an $11 million cut in 2012.
“This is the most reasonable and moderate of the state budget proposals that we have seen,” Lyon said. “This latest budget proposal deﬁnitely negatively impacts our school district, but the wheels won’t fall off.”
The current Hays CISD proposal would trim $7.7 million from the district’s $120 million operating budget, largely by eliminating more than 100 jobs. The district hopes that most of those employees could be rehired due to staff turnover and a rising student population.
The district created a portal for teachers and community members to submit their own ideas for cost savings, many of which were incorporated into a second round of proposed cuts. Lyon praised the community for providing a ﬂood of input.“I think that the community is very supportive and recognizes the position that we’re in and is contributing their good ideas,” Lyon said. “The threat to the quality of public education in our community and in Texas is much more acutely recognized right now. We’re all in this together.
”The proposal cuts 31 classroom teachers, 51 out-of-classroom teaching positions including 18 instructional strategists, 18 campus technologists, and 16 interventionists, 15 custodians, two attendance officers and 5.5 central office positions, including the director of librarians.
On Monday, the board took the first steps to implement a reduction in force, making program changes that will cut 52 contract instruction positions of instructional strategists, campus technologists and interventionists.
Those axed positions will have names on them Thursday night, when the district votes not to extend contracts to the employees who currently hold those jobs. Principals at individual campuses will recommend which employees to cut, though the district hopes to rehire most or all of them into classroom positions.
The board also plans to reduce 31 teaching positions by increasing class size at all grade levels. However, because the district expects to have about 700 more students next year, that won’t result in any actual teacher layoffs.
“We’re just going to absorb those positions that under a normal year we would be hiring for,” Lyon said.
The budget proposal also includes a number of non-personnel cuts, such as reducing district and athletic supply budgets by 10 percent, reducing the superintendent’s office budget by 32.5 percent, and cutting cell phone allowances. In addition to cuts, the board is also looking at methods to increase revenue, such as raising facility usage fees, accept-ing corporate sponsorships and increasing daycare fees.
However, those changes don’t have to be cemented until the district approves its annual budget this summer, hopefully with a clearer understanding of how much money the state will be providing. Barring a legislative meltdown resulting in extended special sessions, state lawmakers should approve the biennial Texas budget in May.
In the last ten years, local property owners have footed an increasing share of the school bill. A decade ago, local taxes covered 50 percent of school operating budgets across the state; that number has risen to about 63 percent in the last ten years.
For that reason, Hays School Board President Patti Wood said she would be reluctant to implement a tax hike to fill the budget gap.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of a tax increase right now,” Wood said. “I’m not for adding that much burden onto the taxpayers. Property owners have been carrying the load for schools and I hope they come up with a better system this session for funding.”
The district estimates it could generate about $4.5 million by maxing out the tax rate at $1.60 per $100 of property valuation, a 13-cent increase over the current rate.
“The instructions to administration were leave no stone unturned,” Lyon said. “I’m not advocating for a tax election on this, I’m simply presenting the information.”
- Hays CISD passes $111.1 million budget 09/7/2011
- Budget forecast: No cuts or tax hikes for the Hays CISD 03/24/2012
- Hays CISD balances budget 08/4/2011