MAKING ‘CENTS’ OF CHANGING ECONOMIES: School makes substantial cutbacks

After December 2007, when a national recession was declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research, state and federal budgets have been under intense scrutiny.

A central aspect of the state’s budget that is being considered for budgetary cuts is the education system.

Passed by the Texas legislature, House Bill 1, which took effect in the ’06-’07 school year, readjusted the manner in which the state supplies funding per student.

“This bill, which is still in effect today, forces school districts to combine revenue from property taxes and state revenue for a maximum revenue per student,” Bryan ISD Chief Financial Officer Amy Drozd said. “The result is as our property values increase bringing in additional property tax revenue, our state revenue declines by the same amount.”

For Bryan ISD, this bill and other financial difficulties have led to a shortfall of almost $2 million dollars for the 2010-2011 school year.

“The legislature will meet in the spring of 2011, but due to the state’s financial position and their overall shortfall it is doubtful any additional funds will come to public education,” Drozd said. “Therefore, our budget challenges will probably continue into the next biennium.”

Faced with this situation, the district has looked for ways to reduce and cut back spending.

“In 2010-2011 we cut approximately $2.3 million from the budget with similar amounts from the prior two years’ budgets as well,” Drozd said. “We will have to continue to look for ways to reduce our spending with as little impact on instruction as possible.”

At the school level, the administration is focusing on making changes that have little or no bearing on the quality of education and instruction offered at Bryan High.

“We’re trying really hard for this not to impact instruction in the classroom, not to impact our students at all, and to keep the quality there,” Principal Diana Werner said. “We’ve been very stringent with the master schedule to make sure what students have requested in the spring is what we offer in the fall.”

One option being considered by the district to help bring in more revenue for the district and school budgets is a property tax increase, which, according to House Bill 1, is the only way for districts to increase their revenue per student.

While several changes are being made at the administrative level, there are changes that students themselves can make that will help dampen the blow of these budget cutbacks.

“Every time we have to repair something, it is costly. This summer a lot of work was done to power wash this campus, not only to get the mildew off the buildings, but to power wash the side walks and the walkways and the stairwells,” Werner said. “Every textbook we lose comes out of our instructional budget.”

Missing textbooks this year alone could cost the school over $27,000, which is money taken from the instructional budget.

To help reduce the impact of these budget cuts, students can take action by taking care of the campus and school materials.

In particular, students can help reduce the excess staffing costs by picking a definitive schedule in the spring before the next school year.

In the fall,  students should stick with the schedule chosen knowing that with effort and commitment, the classes chosen will get better with time.

One other way students can reduce the impact of financial cutbacks is to maintain a high attendance and to bring notes within three days of an absence, because the school also receives funding based on attendance rates.

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