Commerce ISD discuss budget, will not raise taxes

Commerce – It appears the Commerce ISD will not raise its current tax of $1.04 per $100 valuation for the upcoming school year.

The news comes following a preliminary budget workshop Tuesday night among board members, who have until the end of the month to formally approve the budget.

The district will however operate in the red this year, needing to again dip into their fund balance (savings account) to support 2009-2010 costs. The preliminary budget calls for $500,000 to be taken from savings, but the board feels they can cut that down to $300,000. Fortunately, the district has what's considered a "healthy fund balance" of around $5 million, a credit to previous administrations in their ability to put money aside.

CISD will receive over $600,000 in state money, which will provide a slight pay raise for all support staff (non-faculty). Administrators are also waiting on Governor Perry to approve a bill that would provide an additional $800 to all teachers, on top of the $400 each teacher receives automatically each year.

Under the current budget - using fund balance reserves - the district is not making any steps toward saving money, according to board member Russell Armstrong. He feared the district would assume the same fate of Dallas ISD (budget shortfall) if the practice continued over the next several years.

Superintendent Blake Cooper stated the best way to improve the budget is to raise enrollment figures, hoping positive change - like the high school recently achieving academically acceptable status - would help.

Board members also agreed that cutting costs would need to be considered, especially in payroll, which makes up 75 percent of the CISD budget. Ways to trim that fat may be by not filling vacant positions, cutting costs with food service, and an energy conservation plan, among others.

The board has called for another budget workshop on Monday July 22 at 5:45 p.m. with a public hearing on the budget set for 6:45 p.m. that evening.