‘Rainy Day’ deal doesn’t help RISD

Seven take advantage of early resignation offer; estimated savings $300,000

Gov. Rick Perry’s acquiescence to allow $3.2 billion of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be used for school finance won’t help the Rockdale ISD this year.

That’s the verdict of Dr. Howell Wright, Rockdale ISD superintendent.

But seven RISD employees have decided to accept the district’s offer of an early resignation incentive, creating an estimated $300,000 in badly-needed savings in the 2011-12 budget preparations.

Perry said last week he would support taking $3.2 billion out of the $9 billion Rainy Day Fund for the current fiscal year.

But he also promised to veto any 2012-13 state budget which uses the Rainy Day Fund.

Dr. Wright referred to the compromise as “just paying the current (2011) bill.”

“It’s not going to help us with our budget next year,” he said.

INCENTIVE—But the acceptance by seven employees of a 10-percent bonus (current salary) for letting the district know early they won’t be back in 2011-12, has provided some budget-cutting momentum.

Monday was the deadline for RISD employees to accept the offer.

“We will have to fill one of those seven positions,” Dr. Wright said. “But the number of resignations will create an estimated $300,000 savings.”

Dr. Wright said attrition—not filling some vacancies as they occur—is a key part of the district’s strategy to combat what is now forecast as $1-million-plus cuts in state funding to the RISD for the next two years.

“We are also looking at a 10 percent across-the-board cut in budgets,” he said. “We’re not talking about personnel in that 10-percent cut.”

‘RE-PURPOSING’—Dr. Wright said the district continues to identify new ways to cut costs.

“We are hoping to fulfill the current (intermediate) principal vacancy in-house,” he said. “That should save some costs.”

Another strategy is “re-purposing” a re-tooling of personnel to get the maximum use of each person’s talents and expertise.

“Part of it is reassigning duties,” he said. “It may also involve some recertification.”

In January, school board members were presented a list of 26 possible cost-cutting strategies to deal with the crisis.

So far the district has been focusing on those at the top of the list, including attrition, the 10 percent budget cut and the early resignation incentive.

“ Dow n list opt ions mig ht include moving the second grade to the intermediate (eliminating an assistant principal position), a salary schedule freeze, reducing coaching positions and bus routes.

SOLUTION—Dr. Wright continues to believe the ultimate solution should come at the state level.

“If the legislature were to delay the July and August payments to schools, use one-third of the Rainy Day Fund for the current budget year and one-third for the next biennium (leaving an estimated $3 billion for the 2014-15 biennium), the current budget shortfall to schools would be more manageable and would not cause the drastic personnel cuts all schools are considering,” he said.

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