House bill ‘devastating’ for RISD

Two-year loss estimated at $2.7 million; Senate version ‘manageable’
Reporter Editor

Dr. Howell Wright believes the bill passed by the Texas House of Representatives Sunday would have devastating consequences for Rockdale and other school districts. Dr. Howell Wright believes the bill passed by the Texas House of Representatives Sunday would have devastating consequences for Rockdale and other school districts. HB 1, the school finance bill which cleared the Texas House of Representatives Sunday night, would have “devastating” consequences for the Rockdale ISD, according to Supt. Dr. Howell Wright.

A bill being considered by the Texas Senate would be “more manageable,” Dr. Wright said, with anticipated cuts of about one third the house version.

The House version would slice about $2.7 million from state funding headed for the Rockdale ISD over the next two years, according to Dr. Wright.

He said the district has already made about $835,000 in cuts preparing for the long-anticipated crisis, leaving about $1.9 million still to cut.

That would translate into about 36.5 professional salaries, he said.

‘ PR ESSUR E’—Dr. Wright said he recently met with State Rep. Dr. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) in Austin and read from a letter to Schwertner and State Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan).

“This year we have already cut $55,000 out of salaries and non-teaching positions and before July 1 we will have reduced another $80,000 in salaries outside the classroom,” he said.

An early-resignation incentive was accepted by seven persons, saving the district an anticipated $300,000.

The district is also anticipating a 10-percent budget cut, not including personnel.

“ The cuts we have made will not be enough to meet the budget,” Dr. Wright said.

‘FIRST STEP’—Dr. Schwertner voted in favor of HB 1 but emphasized he did not view it as a final version.

“I am supporting the passage of HB 1 only as a starting point in the evolving and ongoing budgetary process,” he said.

“When considering the final state budget later this session, my support will ultimately be determined by a number of factors, specifically that it does not increase taxes on the people of Texas and that it places a high priority on funding for public education and essential services for our children, the elderly and the truly indigent,” he said.

PRESSURE—Dr. Wright’s letter maintained that even if classroom teachers escape substantial personnel cuts, the elimination of non-teaching positions would put additional pressure on them.

“How much learning will take place when teachers have to clean their rooms, drive buses, fix their computers and take care of serious discipline issues in the classroom when they occur?” he asked.

SENATE BILL—Dr. Wright said a bill being considered by the Senate, and which could come into play in any compromise between the two houses, is preferable.

“If the Senate version prevails, the cuts are only about $800,000 over the biennium,” he said. “We can overcome the loss with proposed cuts and a little part of the Rainy Day Fund,” he said.

“The House version is just not sustainable,” he said. “ Though many members of the legislature admit they made a mistake in 2006, no one is working on an immediate solution to the problem.”

“ The problem is a $5 billion structural deficit each year caused by the ineffectiveness of the margins tax that was supposed to make up the difference in the loss of 33 percent of revenue in tax rate compression (school property tax cut),” he said.

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