‘Everything’ now on the table for RISD fund crisis

Trustees okay early resignation offer, eye hiring freeze, cutbacks
Reporter Editor

“We’re putting everything on the table.”

Well, almost everything. As the Rockdale ISD grapples with an anticipated annual loss of between $600,000 and $1.7 million in state support, its plan is to protect teachers’ jobs as much as possible.

“These cuts will affect us deeply, more deeply than ever before,” Supt. Dr. Howell Wright told a glum school board workshop Thursday evening.

“But we don’t want to cut part of who we are and what we are,” he said. “This district is operating well.”

“Our teachers are ‘where the rubber meets the road’,” Dr. Wright said.

ADMINISTRATION CUT—It was an initial information session and dozens of ideas, prepared by a district leadership team, were presented.

They included everything from reducing or eliminating raises to moving the second grade onto the intermediate campus, allowing the RISD to cut an assistant principal position.

Administration has already been cut, according to Dr. Wright.

“This year the Central Administration Office has cut salaries by $55,000,” he said.

INCENTIVE—Only action taken Thursday was to okay an early resignation incentive for current teachers, allowing the district to more fully grasp how much attrition will take place before the 2011-2012 budget is compiled.

Teachers, and others on Chapter 21 contracts, will receive an incentive of 10 percent of their current salaries—between $3,800 and $55,000—if they tell the district by March 21 they are resigning at the end of the term.

That enables budget planners to allow for attrition—not replacing a position—if they wish for next school term, saving money.

“We’re not going to use attrition that would harm education,” Dr. Wright said.

It’s worded in the resolution the offer can be withdrawn if and when enough personnel have accepted early retirement to meet attrition requirements, estimates at about $500,000.

“If 10 people come in the first day (and take the offer), I could stop it that day.” he said.

PAY CUTS—Dr. Wright said he and the leadership team submitted the list of 28 possible cost-savings items but are not endorsing them.

“ I don’t like this, in fact I despise it,” he said. “But everything has got to be on the table.”

He noted that one obvious solution, cutting teacher pay, cannot legally be done.

“ It ’s aga inst t he law,” Dr. Wright said. “ There have even been instances in other places where teachers have volunteered to take pay cuts to save their jobs but you can’t legally do that.”

One cost-cutting idea was to reduce custodial services to every 0ther day with teachers responsibly for tidying up their own classrooms on “in between” days.

SICK LEAVE—Cutting down on personal leave days was also on the list of options as was eliminating travel stipends and reducing the number of conferences attended.

Lee Jenkins, board president, said he felt trustees should share in the effort and cut back the number of out-of-town training sessions they attend.

“We can do alternative forms of training,” he said. “I know I do a lot of on-line training. Everybody is going to have to do their part and that includes the school board.”

TECH SAVINGS—High tech is also targeting savings.

Using a free e-mail system is on the proposal list, drawing support from board member Michelle Lehmkuhl who remarked: “I’d rather make e-mail a little more difficult than do away with a teaching position.”

Obtaining the district’s Microsoft Office software from the cloud—worldwide offsite networking— is another option listed.

FR EEZE, SLOTS— Other prominent options include a salary schedule freeze, reducing the number of coaching slots and doing away with school-paid field trips.

“That doesn’t save as much as you’d think,” Dr. Wright said. “It saves about $9,000.”

Summer school could be eliminated or put on a paid basis.

“We’ve already got a very lean budget,” Dr. Wright said. “There’s just not a whole lot of room to make cuts.”

He said last year in per-student spending just 1.3 percent was spent on district administration and 3.7 percent on campus administration.

RAINY DAY—Dr. Wright said the current funding crunch is partially an outgrowth of property tax cuts enacted by the legislature in 2006 which lowered the maintenance and operation property tax cap from $1.50 to $1.04.

“ On top of t hat t here a re unfunded mandates where the state required the local districts to do some things but did not provide the money for them,” he said.

He termed the current school funding situation “unprecedented” adding “they’ve even gone into the Permanent School Fund for the first time ever.”

Dr. Wright said the $9.3 billion cut would result in the loss of over 100,000 jobs. “And that rolls over into the private sector with a loss of 2.3 jobs per public sector position cut,” he said.

He urged Rockdale ISD resident s to contac t State Rep. Charles Schwertner and State Sen. Steve Ogden and urge the state to use its $9.4-billion Rainy Day Fund.

“It won’t deplete the Rainy Day Fund,” Dr. Wright said “Some of it will replenish with oil and gas taxes, 75 percent of which will go into that fund and 25 percent into the general fund.”

“If this isn’t a rainy day, I don’t know what is,” Jenkins said.

Rockdale ISD possible savings

• Reduce all budgets (not including personnel) 10%
• Hiring freeze.
• Attrition, resignations, retirements, non-renewals,
repurposing: 10 professional positions ($500,000).
• Early notification of resignation incentive. (Approved
• Eliminate travel stipends ($31,000).
• Reducing number of stipends.
• Reduce number of conferences per administrator/
• Use Project SHARE to provide training electronically.
• Loss of local days for absence.
• No field trips paid with district funds ($9,000).
• Reduce paraprofessional positions.
• Reduce custodial service, go to alternate days.
• Salary schedule freeze.
• Reduce coaching slots.
• Reduce agriculture trips.
• Extend uniform/band instrument schedule.
• Move second grade to Intermediate campus, eliminating one assistant principal position.
• Add “pay for Pre-K” for non-qualifiers; full day Pre-K.
• Use free e-mail system.
• Use Microsoft Office from the Cloud (off-site networking). • Reduce some full time to half time employees (paraprofessionals and support).
• Reduce number of bus routes.
• No summer school or pay summer school.
• Reduce district contribution for insurance.
• Reduce ink usage, print to central copiers, eliminating printers.
• Combine services/secondary course work with other

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