NISD cuts budget by $61.4 million; 973 positions will be eliminated

Plan calls for no employees to be terminated
Following months of discussions, the Board of Trustees Tuesday night voted to cut the budget by $61.4 million, which will eliminate a total of 973 employee positions district-wide.

Superintendent John Folks said the positions will be eliminated through attrition (retirements and resignations) and that no employees will be terminated. If necessary, the District will use a portion of its fund balance to avoid laying off staff members, he said. Currently, about 13,000 employees work for Northside ISD.

In addition to the elimination of positions, a salary freeze will be enacted, operating expenses for campuses, programs, and departments will be reduced, and class sizes will be increased.

"We are in this position because the governor and the Legislature are choosing to drastically reduce funding to Texas public education," Superintendent John Folks said. "They are balancing the state budget on the backs of school children."

Folks said a number of poor decisions at the state level have created a $27 billion state budget deficit, and funding for public education could be cut by as much as $8 billion. In 2006, the Legislature implemented a business margins tax to reduce reliance on property taxes, but the margins tax never generated the promised revenue. Then in 2009, the Legislature used one-time federal stimulus money to supplant, instead of supplement, public education funds.

Despite the structural deficit created by the state, the governor and the Legislature refuse to access additional revenue streams to address the budget shortfall, Folks said. Northside ISD's budget could be cut anywhere from $40 million to $80 million, but exactly how much won't be known until the Legislature approves the state budget, probably later this summer.

However, Northside ISD can't wait that long to begin preparing its budget for the 2011-2012 school year. Therefore, District leaders developed a budget that cuts $61.4 million, though actual revenue may end up being more or less.

Folks said NISD is able to absorb the loss of so many staff positions without layoffs in part because the District is so large and is expected to grow by 2,600 students next year. Hundreds of employees will retire or resign this year, and the student growth creates about 110 positions that now will be filled with existing staff.

The District is opening two new elementary schools next year - both of which are funded by School Bond 2007 - to accommodate the growing enrollment. By law, bond money can not be used for operating expenses or employee salaries.

Here's a summary of the budget cuts:
  • Eliminate 973 positions through attrition (461 professional, 244 other, 268 from current year's budget)
    • Eliminated positions include 45 central office positions and 27 campus administrators
  • Implement a salary freeze
  • Reduce starting pay for new teachers with no previous teaching experience from $47,000 to $46,675 with a bachelor's degree and $48,100 to $47,775 with a master's degree
  • Continue a hiring freeze (in spite of enrollment growing by more than 2,600 students next year and opening two new schools)
  • Use the projected employee turnover of 300 positions (retirements/resignations), and 110 new teacher positions created by growth for displaced staff
  • Raise the average student-teacher class size ratio to 24 to1 at elementary schools (grades 2 to 4), 26 to 1 at middle schools, and 28 to 1 at high schools
  • Increase student-guidance counselor ratio to 475 to 1
Here is a summary of the eliminated positions:
  • 10 Counselors
  • 22 gifted and talented teachers
  • 130 special education teachers and assistants
  • 99 library assistants
  • 50 campus technologists
  • 60 custodians
  • 27 campus administrators
  • 45 central office administrators (including four high-level directors) and staff
  • 20 high school academic coaches
  • 28 athletic coaches
  • 268 positions from all employee groups from the 2010-11 school year (unfilled vacancies)
  • 239 teachers, all level, because of increased class sizes
  • 15 nurses (move from registered nurses to licensed vocational nurses)
Here is a summary of dollars associated with the cuts:
  • $17.6 million - already cut from the 2010-11 budget by eliminating 268 positions
  • $12 million - salary freeze
  • $2 million - bus drivers and other transportation savings
  • $12.7 million - teaching positions
  • $1 million - high school academic coaches
  • $1.2 million - gifted and talented teachers
  • $2.3 million - library assistants
  • $1.3 million - counselors
  • $1.9 million - administration
  • $1.2 million - custodians
  • $1 million - stipends/extra days
  • $5.1 million - special education teachers, assistants, and central office staff