Robstown Independent School District leaders are taking steps to cut expenditures in the proposed 2011-12 budget cycle, with all avenues being examined to offset a deficit estimated to be more than $900,000.
During a budget workshop on Monday, RISD trustees received an update from the district’s business manager, Jodi Schroedter, on current projections for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. Schroedter informed the board that the district has taken a hit in its revenue due to a combination of declining enrollment and loss of state revenue.
Due to recent state legislation, Shroedter said, the district will receive $1.2 million less from the state in the upcoming fiscal year than it did in the 2010-11 budget cycle. Superintendent Alfonso Obregon added the district lost 140 students last school year, the biggest such decline the district has seen in years. That number resulted in a $700,000 hit in revenue the district receives based on student enrollment, he added.
As a result, the district has lost nearly $2 million in revenue. The only saving grace, Shroedter said, was voters approving the district’s tax ratification election last year. The money generated from that helped offset much of the funding hits the district is expected to take this fiscal year, she said.
The district received $26.4 million in revenue in 2010-11, compared to $24 million expected for 2011-12, according to figures presented during Schroedter’s presentation.
“If we had not passed the TRE, we would be in worse shape than we are now,” Shroedter.
With the district not expected to approve its final budget until sometime next month, officials have been looking at ways to cut expenditures. So far, departments have been asked to trim costs associated with supplies and staffing levels, and most of the areas presented on Monday had less money being allocated to them than last year.
For instance, the proposed budget for student transportation in 2011-12 is $112,000 less than the $568,000 allocated in 2011-12. The overall district budget currently being proposed sits at $24.9 million, compared to $26.9 million in 2010-11.
During the halfway point of Monday’s meeting, Schroedter presented the board with a questionnaire that asked them to mark off areas they would like to see cuts made in the hopes of offsetting an expected $931,319 deficit. That money would come from the district’s $5.8 million reserve fund balance, which has already dipped below the state recommended level of $6.5 million, Schroedter said.
The combined proposals could save the district about $1.4 million, but Schroedter said it was unlikely they would all be adopted. The reason for the overage was to give the board options in where to make the necessary cuts, she added.
One of the proposed items listed on Schroedter’s questionnaire included consolidating campuses based on grade level. Most of the four trustees in attendance — Eva Orona, Osvaldo Romero, Adolfo Lopez and Robert Tapia — expressed interest in the idea, particularly as a cost-saving measure.
“I do like the idea of grouping kids by grade level — that makes a lot of sense,” Romero said.
Other proposals included reducing elective courses districtwide, reducing the use of police officers at the campus level, eliminating the athletic intercession and charging for dual credit courses. Tapia and Romero both expressed hesitation at the idea, but Schroedter said most districts, like the Corpus Christi and Calallen independent school districts, currently charge for dual credit courses, since they often operate at a cost to the district.
Romero, however, said the free courses give RISD students, many of whom come from low-income families, a chance at pursuing higher education.
“If we can give our kids an edge going into college, let’s give it to them,” he said.
Another proposal addressed the issue of buying meals for students participating in extracurricular events that require bus travel outside the district. Schroedter said the district currently pays for meals for all students, sponsors, teachers and coaches that take part in those trips, with primary expenditures coming from athletics.
In all, the district spends an average of $150,000 annually for those meals, she added.
Her pitch to the board asked that the board consider allowing the district to prepare sack lunches for students involved in those particular activities, rather than paying for meals at fast food restaurants. That move alone, Shroedter said, would save the district $140,000.
However, trustees argued that most students today rarely eat food provided by their cafeterias, so sack lunches would mostly go to waste.
“I just think it’s a little extreme,” Orona said. “You’re going to find a lot of these (sack lunches) thrown in the trash.”
Schroedter said the RISD could look at other districts to see how they handle the issue. Most districts set a radius that limits what meals will be paid for — if students, sponsors and instructors travel a certain distance, then that is when they are eligible to have the district shell out the money for that particular meal.