Lack of funding leads Hays CISD into the red

Reductions in state funding, along with less-than-expected appraisal values, are expected to have Hays CISD officials seeing red for the second time in as many years.

Board trustees are looking at adopting a $3.4 million deficit budget when they vote on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget Aug. 31, said Ann Dixon, Hays CISD interim superintendent Monday.

Annette Folmar, Hays CISD chief financial officer, said part of the district’s deficit is a $1.5 million overrun that’s expected this fiscal year. Hays CISD must also carry over a $1.8 million overrun from the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

One factor in the overrun is a decrease in funding from the state, Folmar said. Over the past two years, Hays CISD has seen a combined $5 million decrease, with the district receiving $3 million less than expected this fiscal year.

Folmar said the “frustrating thing” is how the district is trying to keep pace with the growth of the district, while also receiving less state assistance. She said all districts statewide are facing the same issue.

As property values increase in a school district, the amount of state funding diminishes, Folmar said.

“I don’t like to use the term recapture, but when the state is paying less money and you’re getting more students, it’s recapture,” Folmar said.

She added while the district “grateful for everything the state does for us,” they hope to maintain more in the basic allotment.

A second factor for Hays CISD’s budget woes is overestimating appraisal numbers for the upcoming year.

Dixon said Hays CISD estimated appraisal values to be $900 million for FY 2018. When the actual numbers came out in July, the district’s appraisal values were only $670 million.   

Dixon said the district had always anticipated the increase in value, which served as a buffer for items such as one-time expenditures.

“This is the first year we don’t have that buffer,” Dixon said.

As a result, the district is adjusting some of its budget items. One of those is an increase in teacher salaries, which will only go up by two percent this fiscal year.

In March, the district planned to offer teachers a three percent salary bump. Dixon said the district would have to find $1.2 million to offer the three percent increase.

But to do so, the district would have to add the $1.2 million to the existing deficit.

“We don’t have the surplus in there this year because we didn’t go up as much as we thought,” Dixon said. “We’re not just scurrying for $1.2 million, but it’s scurrying for $1.2 plus $3.4 million.”

Merideth Keller, Hays CISD board president, said looking at zero-based budgeting, along with asking departments to potentially cut their budgets, is what she believes could be looked at to avoid similar budget problems in 2019.

“We can’t keep doing this. We can’t keep running a deficit budget,” Keller said. “I don’t know if we can find a way out of it by Aug. 31 … I think we’ll have to pull a deficit budget this year, but we have to look a completely new way of budgeting next year.”

Hays eyes pay increase for bus drivers as shortage looms

Hays CISD continues to eye an increase in pay for custodians and bus drivers, which is part of its proposed FY 2018 compensation plan.

Bus drivers could see a pay increase of seven to nine percent, with the starting rate increased to $16 per hour. Custodians’ pay could also go up to $10.50 per hour.

Folmar said the move to increase pay was to attract and retain drivers and custodians. Currently, Hays CISD is facing a shortage in both positions for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.

While the exact number of vacancies is unknown, Folmar said there are “a lot” of open bus driver positions. Last year, Hays CISD was short 30 custodians. Hays CISD’s school year begins Monday.

Competition from neighboring school districts and other industries are factors that are leading to the shortages, Folmar said.

“We’re trying to compete with wages AISD offers, but also San Marcos,” Folmar said. “We’re also competing against the Amazon Distribution Facility in San Marcos, which has attracted a lot of workers.”

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