NISD will eliminate 973 positions to reduce budget by $61 million

Schools and teachers grapple with massive impending cuts from the state

The Board of Trustees Tuesday night voted to save first-year probationary teachers' jobs but at the same time directed the superintendent to prepare a budget recommendation that will cut an additional 705 positions through attrition next school year. The Board is expected to vote on the recommendation at the April 26 Board meeting.

The Board already has approved eliminating 268 positions from the 2010-11 budget, bringing the total positions proposed to be cut to 973. Currently, about 13,000 employees work for Northside ISD.

The decision not to terminate first-year teachers was made following months of budget reviews with the Board and staff.

"This is not what we want to do; this is not what Northside is about," Superintendent John Folks said, reacting angrily to the position in which the school districts find themselves. "The whole responsibility of what we're talking about rests on the shoulders of our state government ... because of the deficit they created." 

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 2008, 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 this summer.

However, Northside ISD can't wait that long to begin preparing its budget for the 2011-2012 school year. Therefore, District leaders are developing a budget that cuts $61.4 million, though actual revenue may end up being more or less. Folks said if necessary, he will recommend using some of the District's reserve, or emergency funds, to avoid laying off displaced employees.

In addition to the elimination of 973 staff positions, proposed cuts include a salary freeze, maintaining a hiring freeze, and reducing operating expenses for programs and departments.

Here's a summary of proposed 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 formula for displaced staff
  • Raise the average student-teacher class size ratio to 24 to1 at elementary schools, 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 sampling of dollars associated with proposed cuts:

  • $17.6 million - already cut from the 2010-11 budget by eliminating 268 positions
  • $12 million - salary freeze
  • $2 million - bus drivers
  • $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 for athletic coaches and fine arts staff
  • $5.1 million - special education teachers and assistants