No tax hike, teacher cuts in RISD

District’s cost-savings tactics paying off, so far, with legislature still in session
Reporter Editor

It worked, at least so far.

Cost-cutting measures put in place earlier this year by the Rockdale ISD, in anticipation of a massive reduction in state funding, appear to have prevented both a tax increase for district taxpayers and saved the jobs of RISD teachers who wish to continue in the district.

School board members met in a budget workshop Tuesday.

Dr. Howell Wright, superintendent, said the district’s maintenance and operation tax rate is predicted to remain at $1.04.

While the Interest & Sinking tax rate has not yet been computed—it’s based on property values which aren’t final—Dr. Wright said “we anticipate it will remain the same as last year.”

That would be 17.35 cents for a combined rate of $1.2135, same as last year.

NO REDUCTIONS—Also, there don’t appear to be any additional personnel reductions on the horizon.

Key word is “additional.”

The district implemented a teacher retirement incentive program last spring, allowing 2011-12 planners to know how many positions to budget for.

Funds are bring saved by not funding some positions as configured in past terms.

“Early retirement and attrition have taken care of our personnel reductions for this year,” Dr. Wright said. “Next year we will have better information, once a school finance plan is settled, to see if we need to continue to cut positions.”

10 PERCENT CUTS—Dr. Wright said each department and campus is giving up 10 percent of its budget and other cuts have been made.

“They are mostly through attrition, and repurposing (reassignment,)” he said

Dr. Wright said the district was implementing the Project Share program “to help reduce professional devel- opment costs and travel.”

“ We are not going to renew licences for many of our Microsoft products,” he said. “We are going to use open source products that are free.”

SPECIAL SESSION—This doesn’t mean everything is home free for the RISD. The Legislature is in special session trying to create a school finance plan.

“It looks as though we will be cut as much as 8 percent over a two-year period, most of the cut coming in the first year and through a very inequitable plan called proration,” Dr. Wright said.

“ The future will be interesting since the Senate plan was to reduce education funding permanently and the House plan was to cut everyone across the board equally (no matter how much revenue per student schools can earn),” he said.

“It’s called proration but without the promise of returning the money later (as in the current proration laws),” Dr. Wright said.

“ With the addition of over 80,000 students per year to our public school system and a new, more challenging assessment system, it is apparent that something will need to be fixed with equity, adequacy, and possibly the claim of an unconstitutional state property tax or legislators may face another lawsuit to require them to rectify the system,” he added.

Dr. Wright said he is certain trustees will have another budget meeting later in the summer prior to the school board session in which the budget will be adopted.

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