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Hays CISD proposes budget for next school year

By Megan Wehring

COVID-19 pandemic could wreak havoc with the Hays CISD Board of Trustees’ 2020-2021 budget.

Trustees are preparing for the upcoming school year even as they walk in unfamiliar territory, looking at fall enrollment figures and what to expect even as the pandemic continues to escalate in Hays County.

The board proposed a new budget with post-COVID-19 projections using a virtual presentation that was available to the public.

For the 2020-2021 school year, the district will be operating under the second year of House Bill 3 (HB3). The bill was passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019. The purpose of the bill was to provide more funds for classrooms, increase teacher payroll and decrease tax rates. While the summer season is starting, schools are still making decisions about reopening schools for the upcoming year.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright told trustees in last Thursday’s meeting that there will be more information in August about enrollment numbers and if additional teaching staff is required. “We’re not sure about the time we get to the opening of school in August what it’s fully going to look like,” Wright said. “We will be sending out surveys to parents to see what their preference is whether it’s in-person or online.”

Hays CISD has a total of 25 campuses including three comprehensive high schools, one alternative high school, six middle schools, 14 elementaries and one impact center. According to the presentation, the projected enrollment for the upcoming school year is 21,467, equaling a 3% growth compared to the previous year. The projected attendance rate is 95% based on data from the last five years.

According to the Hays CISD budget workshop presentation, the district will earn a Fast Growth Allotment of about $4.9 million for the next school year. The district will also earn about $500,000 from the New Instructional Facilities Allotment due to Buda Elementary and Johnson High School being in the second year of operation.

“What I want to point out with those is that it’s not money promised going forward,” said Randall Rau, chief financial officer for Hays CISD. “They are not necessarily built into funding formulas, they are separate allotments.”

With Hays CISD one of the largest employers in the county, the district has more than 3,200 staff members. The district will contribute $386 per month per employee towards health insurance for the 2020-2021 budget, offering a ‘no-cost’ health plan for all employees.

Chief Human Resources Officer Marivel Sedillo said the district offers a competitive salary and benefits package to attract and retain quality employees. “The administration is recommending a 2% midpoint increase and that’s for all employees,” Sedillo said. “If we meet or exceed our student enrollment projections in August, we would like to recommend that the board consider approving an additional 1% in August, totaling a 3% midpoint increase for all employees.”

The Hays CISD transportation department is the largest auxiliary within operations. With more than 250 employees, the department provides transportation for students and staff of the district. The district also has 226 yellow and white buses on the road daily. Chief Operations Officer Max Cleaver told the Board of Trustees that decisions are still being made about transportation for the school year, depending on what school openings are going to look like.

“On a 72-passenger bus with social distancing, I think we can probably fit about 12 students,” Cleaver said. “That’s something everyone is really thinking about. The conversation we had today was if you have a mask and you break the 6-foot social distancing, is it possible to put a sneeze guard on buses? I don’t know.”

As difficult decisions have to be made surrounding the upcoming school year, Board President Esperanza Orosco told members of the community that they are not alone during this uncertain time. “ We here at Hays CISD are stronger together,” Orosco said.

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