VISD balances budget reflecting higher-than-anticipated cuts

July 21, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

In front of them lay a budget that reflected $8.6 million in cuts, but Victoria school board members pored over the numbers with seeming contentment.

"We're lean and mean, as far as I can tell, and this budget shows it," Board President Tami Keeling said.

While the district waited to hear the final word from the Legislature regarding the state budget, their anticipation for cuts lingered around $4.9 million.

Actual cuts from the state's Foundation School Program, released after a long special session, were significantly higher.

But Executive Director of Budget and Finance Frances Koch breezed through a 20-page budget summary without a hint of panic during Thursday's regular board meeting.

The school district has a plan to not only make up for the cuts, but to do so without raising taxes, imposing layoffs or affecting class size and per-pupil spending.

Superintendent Bob Moore said the district is saving enough to be in good shape for next year, too.

The district had feared the state would no longer fund increases in enrollment, which grew by about 200 students last year. But again, now that policy and numbers are concrete, the district learned it will receive $2.2 million for its growth.

That brings the bottom line of cuts to less than $6.4 million.

The district is hoping for slightly higher tax collection rates - 96 percent compared to 95 percent - but the budget approved Thursday reflects appraised property values at last year's rate.

Appraisal values will be released next week. The budget accounts for the steady rate of $1.32 per $100 of assessed value.

The rest of the state cuts will be covered by primarily five things:

$2.2 million in a one-time federal Education Jobs Fund with $1 million going to continue the pre-kindergarten program; the rest will go to salaries.

A transfer of $1 million from the Workers Compensation fund, which employees finance based on a percentage of their salary. Funds that aren't spent carry over into the district's reserve balance, with $1 million remaining in the compensation fund to cover injury claims.

More than 30 jobs through attrition of mostly central office jobs that will save more than $1.7 million.

Class size is expected to remain at 22 students per teacher.

"Those are the kinds of things that as we worked on the budget, we kept in tact," Moore said.

An increase in federal Medicaid reimbursements.

Each department budgets will cut spending 6 percent.

Next year, the district will not have the Education Jobs Fund to offset the biennium of cuts. If needed, the district will be able to draw from $12.9 million in its undesignated reserve funds.

Enrollment, on which state funding is based, could also continue to increase, as Vice-President Bernard Klimist pointed out.

"That could literally be hundreds of kids ... which is revenue that's not included, but we have room to absorb," he said.

Board Member Lou Svetlik said things are on the up for the whole community.

"Not only has the district been managed in an outstanding fashion, but I also think we're poised to benefit from the local economy that's doing very, very well," he said.

The budget numbers will continue to change based on funding templates from Texas Education Agency.

The budget will be adopted Aug. 25.



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