This year, unlike many other years, school districts statewide are trying to deal with ways to balance their budgets for the 2008-09 school year.

Many districts are facing critical situations and many have to dip into their fund balance (savings) to make ends meet. We will survive, but employees will not get the much-needed pay raises they need.

The concerns, of course, are the cost of gasoline, food and electricity. These increases are taking their toll on employees' home and school district's budgets.

This year, school districts also have limited amounts of money to deal with as well. Our sources of money are state revenues, local taxes, federal funds and other revenues such as gate receipts from sporting events.

The bulk of funding for the property poor districts emanates from state funds based on student enrollment and attendance. If students leave the district, their state funds on the average of $6,000 leave with them to the districts where they enroll. It doesn't appear to do damage, but when you multiple $6,000 times 130 students annually, the school budget tightens.

This year's budget in Robstown ISD is tight. The reasons are 1) No new state revenue, 2) Decline in student enrollment, 3) Anticipated 30 percent increase in food cost, 4) 50 percent increase in fuel cost, and 5) An additional $700,000 required to pay our electricity bill.

I do not anticipate that our electricity bill will be decreasing in the future because the district, as all the citizens of Robstown, is "locked" into a seven-year contract with the utility company.

Two years ago, I could only anticipate a decline in student enrollment and we have been dealing with that by not replacing positions when employees resign.

Last year, we did not replace 30 positions and "saved" $1.4 million that we did not have to add to this year's budget.

Nevertheless, we still have a $1.5 million deficit. Based on the current deficit, the district anticipates having to go into our fund balance to balance the budget.

We are not the only ones, but times are hard for all of us, especially those districts where revenues are shrinking. Our district has been frugal these past few years and through this the district has increased our fund balance for the rainy day.

The rainy day is upon us. We must take the "bull by the horns" and make the decisions required to keep our district moving forward.

Our district, due to shrinking revenues, inflation and the other factors mentioned earlier, has to make some very difficult decisions.

Robstown presently has eight campuses and an enrollment of approximately 3,400 students. Our neighbor Calallen has approximately 3,800 students and five campuses, and Tuloso-Midway has approximately 3,200 students and five campuses.

At our last budget hearing, the RISD administration presented "A Financial Plan for Success." The bottom line is we must reduce expenses to preserve our fund balance that will disappear if measures are not taken this year.

Robstown currently has approximately 615 employees. Calallen has approximately 550 employees and Tuloso-Midway has approximately 420 employees, but outsources their cafeteria and maintenance departments to private companies.

Since students are the revenue generators and we are faced with declining enrollments and 80 percent of the budget is for salaries and we have an excess of employees, decisions have to be made and they are not easy.

Next week my article will be about our facilities and schools our district wants to build and the administration's ideas to "keep the district moving forward."

Roberto Garcia is the superintendent for the Robstown Independent School District. Readers may contact him via telephone at 767-6600, ext. 2223.