The Robstown Independent School District may have to dig into its general fund to pay for a series of utility costs due to new facilities that have been built or are currently under construction.
The district approved the invoices at a June 16 meeting, two of which were past due amounts totaling $84,800 from as far back as 2007. Amounts from the new Lotspeich, $23,800, and San Pedro, $22,800, elementary schools bring that total to over $130,000.
During the meeting, trustees were upset to learn that the district might have to dig into its general fund to pay for the service, primarily because the contractor for the two new schools would not start work until the payments had been made.
Trustee Osvaldo Romero said he was concerned because these costs were usually paid for not by the district, but by the contractor.
"You're saying now that we have to pay for this and that we have to go into the general fund to pay for this and this is something that should have been paid through construction costs," Romero said. "I'm bothered that we have to pay for this out of our general fund."
Robstown Utilities Systems superintendent Roy Gutierrez said the fees come from the addition and installation of new lines to the new facilities. The prices sent to the district for the new elementary schools, he added, did not have to be paid, but were rather quotes the district had asked for in reference to the service being requested.
"We've explained to them already that they don't have to contract with us, they can contract with somebody else," Gutierrez said.
The only fees that need to be paid are those that are overdue, which are $66,000 for the new Seale Jr. High School and $18,800 for the field house at the high school. Those, Gutierrez said, have been due since about 2007.
Business manager Jodi Schroedter said the district could pay the Seale Jr. High bill through interest accumulated in the betterment fund, which currently has a balance of $163,000. The betterment fund is typically used to fund overages on projects around the district, not for utility purposes.
"Seale Jr. High, that one in particular, will not be locally funded," Schroedter said. "We do have interest money to pay for that one."
The remaining balance will more than likely come in the form of a budget amendment to the district's general fund at next month's meeting, Schroedter said, but the option still remains to use the betterment fund. But that move would all but wipe out that source of funding for the district, she added.
Also at last week's meeting:
Trustees approved the adoption of a policy that bans the use of all school vehicles for all activities not school-related. The decision eliminates partnerships the district had with the Boys and Girls Club of Robstown and the Robstown Housing Authority.
The move was made for liability reasons, interim superintendent Roel Lara said.
"We're trying to help as many organizations as we can, but with this new (policy), it handcuffs the school district from helping them out," Lara said.
School board members approved the reinstatement of a Gifted and Talented instructor at Salazar Elementary. The position, which had been cut due to budgetary concerns, is still gathering applicants, Lara said.
A salary will be determined based on the teacher's tenure and qualifications, he added.
Trustees considered rehiring cafeteria workers that had been laid off last year by the district following budgetary concerns.
There is no set figure on how many positions will be reinstated, Lara said, and will likely have to wait until he meets with the food service director to find out what their budget proposal and needs look like.
The district accepted the resignation of John Womack, who conducted the district's financial audits.
Womack gave his notice after being called to testify at the Texas Education Agency hearing for suspended superintendent Roberto Garcia.
By law, Lara said, Womack must not work with the district for at least one year.