Fort Bend Independent School District
** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE **
FORT BEND ISD - Fort Bend ISD believes it is important for both staff and community members to have accurate information regarding challenges the district faces due to ongoing budget constraints. Following are answers to frequently asked questions about the Fort Bend ISD budget:
1 Q. For the past several years we have heard there is not enough funding for public school districts in
2 Q. What does this mean for
3 Q. I thought that the
4 Q. How are districts addressing these budget shortfalls? A. Many districts are taking severe actions which include laying off staff, increasing class sizes, cutting programs, raising employees’ contributions to their health care plans, and not giving pay raises. There are districts in our area that have had to put some of these measures in place over the past few years, and more will face these tough decisions this coming school year.
5 Q. How will
6 Q. What does this mean for the district — how can we operate if we do not have a balanced budget? A. It would mean that the district would operate a “deficit” budget which would require moving money from the district fund balance (our savings account) to our operating budget.
7 Q. Didn’t the district operate this past year with a deficit budget? A. In order to give employees a pay raise this past year, the Board did approve a deficit budget of approximately $10 million in August 2008. However, the Board charged the Superintendent to aggressively review all budget expenditures during the year to find ways to recoup the $10 million. It is important to remember that maintaining a balanced budget and a healthy fund balance is vital to a school district’s credit rating. Because Fort Bend ISD has an excellent credit rating, the district has been able to borrow money and purchase bonds at a low interest rate. Over the years this has allowed the district to save significant money for taxpayers.
8 Q. So what is the district doing this year to address the budget shortfall? A. The district is committed to redirecting costs to balance the budget, while encouraging state legislators to provide financial relief for schools. Specifically, the district has asked all campuses and departments to decrease budgets even more. We are reviewing all staffing allocations for possible savings through reallocation and attrition, identifying and using energy conservation measures, critically reviewing all travel requests, delaying some new initiatives, and reviewing the amount spent on catering and snacks for meetings.
9 Q. What about the stimulus funds that school districts are suppose to receive from the Federal Government — what will FBISD receive and couldn’t this money be used to help balance our budget? A. Our district is receiving approximately $19.8 million in stimulus funds to offset the state’s share of school finance which was used in part to finance the additional $120 per student which FBISD received as a result of HB 3646. It is important to note, that after implementing the state’s mandated salary increase, FBISD gained less than two million dollars, or 0.4 percent of the current operating budget, in new discretionary revenue.
10 Q. Isn’t the district proposing to raise its debt service tax rate for 2009-2010 by 3.5 cents — can’t this increase be used to help balance the budget? A. Districts have two separate budgets. The M & O (Maintenance and Operations) budget is the money we use to run or operate the district. The other budget is for repaying debt or money that voters, through approved bond referendums, have authorized the district to borrow to build new facilities and support specific improvement initiatives. Any increase in the debt service tax rate can only be used to pay off debt—nothing else.
11 Q. So why doesn’t the district consider raising the M & O portion of the tax rate? A. The state capped the M & O tax rate for school districts at $1.04 several years ago. The only way a district can increase this tax is by holding a tax increase election in which voters would have to approve an increase. Given the current economic conditions, it is reasonable to assume that taxpayers are not inclined to vote to increase their taxes, although some districts have been successful in this effort.
12 Q. Why doesn’t the district just cut administrative costs to make up the shortfall? A. FBISD already has a very low administrative cost ratio, and administrative expenditures have been critically examined to identify possible reductions. Cutting all administrative costs is not practical and would not eliminate the budget shortfall.
13 Q. What is included in our overall budget? A. Eighty-seven (87) percent of the budget is comprised of salaries and benefits for all employees. Of this, 73 percent is allocated to the classroom in direct support of teacher salaries and benefits and another seven percent is allocated for instructional support in the areas of curriculum and campus administration. Ten percent of the salaries and benefits are allocated to student support services which includes counselors, social workers, nursing services, and bus drivers, and another eight percent is allocated for our auxiliary employees. Less than two percent goes to administrative salaries and benefits.
14 Q. Why is the district changing its fiscal year? A. Changing the fiscal year will allow the district to align the academic and budgetary year. It is important that campuses and departments have the tools available to them to begin school when the school year starts. Having a budget process which occurs during the school year also allows the public to more fully participate in the budget process.
15 Q. How can I express my opinions about the district’s budget and the public education finance system?
- E-mail: to communicate with FBISD, please send e-mails to askFBISD@fortbendisd.com
- Contact Government Officials: go to the district website and click on “Board of Trustees” and then “Governmental Relations.”
- Ask appropriate staff members: school administrators and department supervisors can provide information about individual school or department budgets.