Commerce ISD contemplates budget reductions

Commerce – Texas school districts are weighing their options as to how they can minimize expenditures but continue to provide a quality education to students amidst the State's budget shortfall.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Commerce ISD Superintendent Blake Cooper provided a number of scenarios the legislature may pursue that would impact public education. Among them were cutting funding to districts, delaying payments, eliminating state health insurance contributions for employees, prorating state funds and/or not replacing the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF).

"Worst case would be not replacing SFSF money which is $1 million," Cooper says. "That and proration. That and them (the State) not paying us all that we're owed at the end of the year when they send us the final payment of what they owe us. Because that's money you'd be planning on."

Cooper says the district will more than likely operate as if there will be a five percent reduction in funding.

"We have to look at all programs and all areas and do what we can, but not affect the education of our kids. Bottom line, no matter what the State does we have school opening back in next August. We're going to have school; it's just a matter of the resources we have to run school."

One thing the district will not do, according to Cooper, is ask voters for a tax rate hike, since such an item was passed by residents in November. He notes some other districts are freezing all salaries and hiring, plus requesting waivers that allow classes to exceed the 22:1 (students to teacher) ratio limit.

Cooper concluded, "I believe that the legislature is going to address the inequities of school finance. But to what extent, I don't know. It may be a graduated thing over a few years, but that's not going to be enough to make up the difference that we've got to have."