Budget time again for RISD

I t is that time of year when Rockdale ISD begins its budget process. After reading Mike Brown’s article on our funding dilemma I am sure you recognize that developing this year’s budget is going to be a challenge.

The state cuts to funding from this last legislative session (they cut spending per pupil by over $500) combined with the loss of students from families that have moved from RISD have created a huge loss of funds for our school district.

I have spent the past week speaking to our employees about the current funding shortfall and next year’s projected shortfall. Those conversations are difficult, but unfortunately they have to occur. Last year when we initiated our discussions about the pending state budget cuts RISD made a commitment to utilize part of our fund balance this school year to offset the cuts.

Knowing that the state was planning to implement a more rigorous test called the STAAR, we wanted to ensure that we protected the classroom and focused on instruction. This next year we are not going to be able to reduce our fund balance at the rate we are this current year. We are going to have to do more with less until the legislature fulfills their requirements of funding schools at an appropriate level.

We are going to have to make some difficult decisions about how we operate. Eighty percent of our $14,195,000 local budget is in salaries; of that amount 1.3 percent is used for central office administration and 3.7 percent is used for campus administration; the remainder is used for staffing, programs, transportation, maintenance, supplies and energy. Reducing in only one or two areas will prevent us from setting a budget that will offset the number of dollars that we lost. We are going to have to reduce costs in many areas across the district to accomplish this goal.

Last year we made a 10 percent cut to all budgets except personnel, we reduced seven coaching slots, we did not replace our secondary choir program when the choir teacher retired, we quit funding power lifting from district dollars, we continued to reduce the amount of printers in our district by printing to the copy machines, we are using more Microsoft products from the cloud reducing our licensing costs and we froze the teacher salary schedule and the RISD merit pay schedule and reduced raises. None of these cuts are positive, but they were effective.

We are looking at other areas to become more efficient to reduce costs, but only increasing efficiency will not cover the total amount of funding reductions necessary for next year. What is worse is that next year, funding to our district will be cut again by the state plan. As we move through this process we will inform you of what the district is doing to ensure that we continue to have a sound financial system and at the same time provide a high quality education and opportunities for our students.

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