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LISD approves tax hike, deficit budget

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

After a brief public hearing on Tuesday evening, the Lockhart Independent School District board of trustees approved a tax $.10 tax increase and a deficit budget upwards of $1.2 million.
Only two citizens, Charles Yunkin and John Manning, had input during the ten minute hearing, both encouraging the district to find ways

to cut expenses without sacrificing education. However, more than 80 percent of the budget applies toward salaries, and there seems little hope of trimming the budget without reducing staff.
“One of the challenges that we face is that our state funding is decreasing, through no fault of LISD,” said district finance director Tina Knudsen. “As the property values increase, our state funding decreases.”
In addition to decreases in state funding, the district had to add almost 50 staff positions to open Bluebonnet Elementary School. Those positions, in addition to the operation of the elementary school, added nearly $1 million to the budget, according to some figures.
“Hopefully with the realignment of the schools, when the dust settles, we can start following some of the recommendations of the Griffin Report and start becoming a leaner organization,” said superintendent John Hall.
The “Griffin Report” refers to a study performed last school year to advise the district where any overspending is taking place. The report found a more than $2.4 million in possible budget cuts, but cautioned that some of the cuts could have a negative impact on the students.
The total budget figures presented to the board call estimate revenues upwards of $28.8 million, with a tax rate of $1.45 per $100 of valuation. Expenses over $30.7 million would yield a budget deficit of $1.95 million.
Knudsen suggested that a tax rate of $1.50 per $100, which is the state-mandated maximum rate that school districts can levy for maintenance and operations, is becoming a standard rate statewide. As expenses and student populations increase, districts need the additional state funding available when the maximum tax rate is charged.
“I think that at 1.50 we still have to do some cutting,” said trustee Alan Fielder. “We don”t know what [the Legislature is] going to do, and we don”t know what the Supreme Court is going to do. We have to tighten this budget so we don”t spend all of our [reserves] this year.”
The increase in taxes to $1.50 per $100 added another $300,000 to the budget, decreasing the deficit to $1.6 million. However, with the total of funds the district has in reserve, the most it can afford is a deficit of $1.2 million.
After volleying several ideas to further decrease the budget, the board placed the responsibility for budget cuts on the staff. They requested that staff and school administration find the $400,000 to trim from the budget – about $40,000 per campus.
Ultimately, a budget of $30.462 million passed on a 5-2 vote, with the board requesting administration to make the additional $400,000 in cuts as budget amendments. Carl Ohlendorf and John Flores voted against the proposal.
The budget as passed called for the maintenance and operations (M & O) tax rate of $1.50 per $100. However the district”s debt accounts allowed for a slight decrease in the interest and sinking (I & S) tax rate, dropping it to $0 .19. The board approved a total tax rate of $1.69 per $100 of valuation, an increase over last year”s total rate of $1.5887. Flores, Ohlendorf and Tim Juarez voted against the rate.

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