On Monday night, Klein ISD officials presented the preliminary budget of $439 million for the 2018-19 school year — their second budget calculated in just the past few months.
After voters rejected June’s Tax Ratification Election that would have given the district access to almost $30 million in local and state aid, officials were faced with crafting a new balanced budget that would cut services and seek out additional revenue.
In Chief Financial Officer Dan Schaefer’s presentation at the budget workshop Monday, he said he was happy to report that they were able to meet their goal of achieving budget reductions without laying off staff.
No employees were eliminated, but cuts were achieved through restructuring staffing based on qualifications and certifications, effectively filling vacant positions with Klein personnel currently employed.
The preliminary budget allotted for 223 additional positions, which included positions to staff both the new Hofius Intermediate School and an added grade level at Klein Cain High School, as well as more special education positions.
However, it also reduced 217.5 positions by increasing the student to teacher ratio by one and identifying surplus positions in areas such as maintenance operations and workroom aides. This resulted in a total addition of 5.5 personnel units.
Schaefer said that every year, the district experiences about 15 percent turnover in resignations and retirements, which enabled them to restructure rather than lay off employees.
Superintendent Bret Champion thanked the board, departments and employees who have been flexible in the restructuring effort.
“The most valuable asset is the people in Klein ISD. It’s all about the quality of people,” Champion said.
At the meeting, the board of trustees also approved the upcoming school year’s staff compensation plan, which did not include any general pay raises and remained budget neutral. The starting teacher salary stayed at $52,600 per 10-month school year.
Total revenues in the preliminary budget included $17 million in non-recurring revenue from a 2-cent tax rate swap, enabled under Texas Tax Code for the year immediately following a natural disaster, and other Hurricane Harvey supplemental funding.
Champion noted that even with the tax rate swap, the level of state aid continues to drop, which is an issue facing other Texas school districts as well.
“It continues to trend where Klein ISD taxpayers are paying more than the state…continuing to exacerbate the problem,” Champion said.
Prior to the failed tax ratification election, the district was expecting to pull in over $42 million. Now, anticipated earnings sit at about half that.
In order to balance the general fund, over $28 million of expenses were cut.
The district had been planning to spend $22 million more than last year, but through cuts to employee compensation and benefits, staffing allocations and non-payroll areas, they landed on a year over year reduction of $6.1 million, which Schaefer said was a dramatic swing.
Each department also presented a summary of budget cuts they plan to make under the preliminary budget.
This included things such as postponing police vehicle purchases, reducing the campus mowing and trash pickup schedule and eliminating the optional teacher workday and teacher reimbursement programs in the 2019-20 school year.
It also included changes to special education supplies, such as renting instead of buying equipment, which some board members wanted to Deputy Superintendent Jenny McGown to clarify.
“It’s not positions, but some initiatives and supplies that have been suspended for the upcoming school year. We did work really hard throughout the entire process to protect our students served in special education,” McGown said.
One board member, Steven Szymczak, asked what trends they can expect to see if they cut too much from the district’s services.
Champion said that because the district wants to remain competitive, they will look for things like burnout in their teachers.
“We want to ensure we’re a culture where people want to be. If that starts to slip, that’s everything…The district continues to put students at the center, even with the things you’ve heard tonight,” Champion said.
At their board meeting Aug. 13, the proposed 2018-19 budget will be formally presented. Then, at a special meeting Aug. 27, board members will vote on the budget’s adoption.
The first day of school for Klein ISD students is Aug. 20.