FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 1/11/2005
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Judy Everett Ramos, 817-399-2025
|This editorial was originally published December 27, 2004. It is reprinted here courtesy of the Star-Telegram.
The Hurst-Euless-Bedford district is starting early on the difficult process of cutting its budget for next year.
There is no good way to cut a school district's budget. Hundreds of school administrators across Texas are learning that lesson firsthand as the state's public education funding problems grow steadily worse and money gets tighter.
Still, the surest way to make the task even more difficult is to put it off, hoping against hope that money will appear from somewhere to lessen the severity of the cuts.
With the current school year only half over, but faced with the need to cut as much as $3.6 million from their budget for next year, administrators of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district already are hard at work on the unsavory job of determining where to trim.
They're smart to start early, allowing time for school board study of the major cuts and time for community comment on the difficult choices.
H-E-B's efforts are instructive, because just about anywhere you live in Texas these days, the local school district is struggling with budget cuts.
This year, for the first time, H-E-B was classified among the state's wealthy school districts, and as such it was required to
share some of its property tax revenue to help educate students in poor districts. This year, it contributed $3.65 million to be used elsewhere; next year, that payment must go up to almost $6 million.
The Texas Legislature will meet in regular session beginning Jan. 11, and one of its major objectives is to come up with a new school finance plan. But H-E-B administrators say that they can't -- or aren't willing to -- wait and hope that the Legislature will solve their problems.
That's another smart choice. Gambling on what the Legislature will do is a fool's game.
If lawmakers are successful and provide a way for schools to overcome their budget problems, then the worst that will happen at H-E-B is that targeted cuts will be restored to the spending plan.
All of H-E-B's budget plans so far include raising the property tax from the current $1.4588 per $100 of assessed property value to the state-mandated cap of $1.50. But unless more money shows up, the district still must make cuts: $3.6 million if teachers and other staff members are given a 3 percent raise, $1.8 million if there are no raises.
After telling trustees in October about the need to trim the 2005-06 school year budget, Superintendent Gene Buinger named two committees of elementary and secondary principals to come up with a list of possible cuts. Their list totaled almost $5.2 million -- enough to allow trustees some choices.
Did they purposely avoid any sacred cows? It doesn't seem so.
The list includes eliminating some sports at the district's two high schools: golf, tennis, swimming and wrestling, with gymnastics moved to an after-school activity. It includes combining the prized International Baccalaureate programs to be offered at only one high school.
The list includes $1.4 million in cuts from central administration.
How about eliminating some other sports and extracurricular activities?
Not cost-effective, says Lynne Rigg, the deputy superintendent for business operations. The elimination of some extracurriculars that are a part of the school day would actually cost the district more money if teaching those students in another class would require hiring another faculty member. Band and football, for instance, include hundreds of students and a relatively low number of faculty members to support them.
Leaders of the district's athletics programs have been invited to suggest other budget reductions if they want to save activities that are currently on the list of possible cuts.
Trustees are expected to consider the list during an all-day workshop on Jan. 15. If they provide direction, administrators will come back to them in February with a near-final list of cuts.
If trustees adopt that list, then comes the task of notifying those teachers and other employees who will lose their jobs -- in time for them to make their own plans for the next school year. Trustees will adopt a final budget in August.
And if the Legislature does come through with more money? Then trustees have other options, like granting a pay raise if they have not already done so or trimming the planned tax increase.
In the end, no one will be satisfied with the outcome of this process. School budget cutting is dirty business. Nobody would do it if it wasn't necessary.
H-E-B's budget cut options
9.5 librarian jobs - $432,730
Five English-as-a-second-language teachers - $234,562
Three counselors - $138,889
Three teachers from art, music and PE - $155,944
Six pre-K teacher assistants - $107,458
Replace registered nurses with LVNs - $40,000
Move Honor Choir to after school - $26,428
Temporarily close one elementary school - $350,000
Golf - $57,155
Tennis - $69,772
Swimming - $41,900
Wrestling - $66,174
Academic Decathlon - $40,300
Two high school assistant choir directors - $99,682
Two junior high assistant choir directors - $90,824
Five junior high library teacher assistants - $77,715
Two high school library teacher assistants - $39,210
Two high school counselor/support specialists - $103,864
Two high school counselor secretaries -
One auto mechanics teacher - $51,392
6.5 jobs at KEYS Learning Center - $230,730
Move gymnastics to after school - $41,900
Reduce stadium personnel - $109,773
Require coaches to drive on athletic trips - $21,888
Reduce use of police at Pennington Stadium - $5,400
Reduce laundry for athletics - $8,588
Reduce contract length for selected teachers - $10,078
Replace registered nurses with LVNs - $10,000
Implement 20-1 staffing ratio - $630,000
Change from trimester to semester - $270,000
Offer IB at only one school - $101,400
Five maintenance employees - $166,047
10 custodians - $211,560
Two substitute bus drivers - $32,752
4.5 jobs in information services - $241,945
2.5 curriculum and instruction jobs - $132,262
Two special-education teachers - $90,000
Half of superintendent's secretary's hours - $17,706
Half of finance secretary's hours - $17,706
$5,000 retirement benefit - $275,000
HEB-TV - $111,728
Require Child Nutrition to pay for freezer/cooler - $9,000
Require Child Nutrition to pay warehouse employee - $28,500
Change funding for instructional technology specialist - $62,280
Reduce number of pagers - $7,500
Reduce number of phone lines - $30,000
Total optional cuts: $5,192,962
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