“Thank you for the amazing work. We just can’t thank you enough.”
With those words from Corsicana Independent School District Board President Kerri Anderson-Donica, work was completed on the 2012-2013 CISD budget, passed unanimously Wednesday during a special meeting of the trustees.
Taxpayers in the district will see no increase in the tax rate — approved at $1.283 per $100 taxable valuation.
And, district employees will be pleased with the salary increases approved by the board — 3 percent for support staff, and the re-instatement of the “step” program for teachers, librarians, diagnosticians and nurses with an added $1,200 retention incentive.
All this in a balanced budget, Donica said, that meets the needs of the district.
Superintendent Dr. Diane Frost shared some highlights of this year’s budget preparation, a spending plan coming in at just over $38 million in the main general fund.
Frost said the district — and districts statewide — are being faced with similar problems, including the need to do more with less — including unfunded mandates from the state.
A large “e-rate” reimbursement to the district — a rebate of sorts from telecommunications companies — brought over $800,000 in additional revenue to the district this year.
The district has also maintained a strong fund balance in its General Fund, currently at about $18 million, said Mike Neilsen, Assistant Superintendent of Finance.
“That’s critical,” explained Frost, “because the state sometimes has ‘lag time’ or sometimes they will make a decision that we don’t get the state money exactly when the schedule says we will be receiving it,” leaving districts the need to “front” the money, then replenish the fund balance.
Frost said not touching money from the Fund Balance was a “non-negotiable” in the board’s planning.
That planning, she said, was a more enjoyable process than last year, when administrators faced some tough decisions in a difficult budget year.
“Budgeting is always a difficult process,” she said, “because you’re asking people to put priorities on the things that are most important.”
The budget approved Wednesday also includes a much needed upgrade to a computer server, currently on year 13 of a 7 year life cycle. Relocation of the district’s computer center is also in the works, Frost said.
Funds were also added to the budget for items such as concussion management for participants in extra-curricular activities, a new bus, and hiring an RN to replace and LVN who has left the district — something the district plans to do going forward.
The district has had to absorb some substantial costs from lost state and federal funds, including the Edu-Jobs program, yet was still able to maintain staffing levels and reach a balanced budget.
With a lawsuit filed by a number of districts across the state — including the CISD — challenging the way the state funds its schools awaits resolution, the next meeting of the state legislature also weighs on the minds of local educators, Frost said.
“We are probably in the most tenuous situation as far as finance in the state of Texas that we have ever been in,” she said, “even more than when ‘Robin Hood’ came into place, because we do not have the money at the state level we used to have.
“As a group of educators, we’re going to have to be pro-active in articulating our needs and also in explaining in ways that people can understand exactly what effect cuts are going to have on our school districts, and our kids.”
Bob Belcher may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com
In the Weekend Edition of the Daily Sun, read an overview of school district budgets from around the county.