LISD debates campus budget cuts


By LPR Staff

In the face of skyrocketing education costs and an overstressed tax base, the Lockhart Independent School District board of trustees continues to struggle to balance the budget for next year.
After passing a deficit budget for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the board committed to alleviate the deficit for next year. Work to

balance the budget began immediately, and the board heard administration”s initial plan for budget cuts during a special-called meeting last week.
Superintendent John Hall reported that he and the board”s budget committee have been meeting with school administration since last May to consider possible cuts to the budget.
“We”ve been trying to determine the best course of action for preserving instruction while cutting costs,” Hall said. “What we”ve done is put all of the principals” priorities together and proposed the cuts accordingly.”
Proposed cuts include increasing class size at elementary levels and the possible reduction of some staffing positions.
The initial budget proposal caused concern to several board members who are uncomfortable with the idea of reducing student services. To add to their concern, only minimal cuts were made in the district office.
“It seems like you”re putting these cuts on the backs of the campuses,” said trustee Alan Fielder, after discovering that the district office agreed only to cut one groundskeeper and two student worker positions. “When people start asking me about the budget, I need to be able to look them in the face and tell them that everything was looked at and that everyone had a voice, and not that the principals were told that they had to make the cuts.”
Hall maintains that Central Office runs within the scope of state standards, and that additional cuts could not be made without affecting the office”s productivity.
“It”s a common woe that doing business in America requires a lot of administration, and the school is a business,” Hall said. “How much leaner can we get?”
“We at Central Office have certainly had these discussions,” added Assistant Superintendent Phil McBride. “We”ve talked about it and are trying to come up with solutions.”
Assistant Superintendent Theresa Ramirez suggested that the personnel considerations could be achieved through natural attrition, as school personnel leave employment with the district each year.
No final decisions will be made about the budget until later this year. Still the board asked administration to continue working to find solutions to balance the budget without sacrificing student education or test scores.
In other board business, the district”s technology will soon upgrade to fiber-optic network lines.
“In light of the [budget concerns], we realize the timing is not the best to request funding approval for the network upgrade,” the proposal read. “However, the project is absolutely necessary.”
According to McBride, the district”s network is running at 90 percent of its capacity, seriously hindering the productivity of both teachers and students.
“During grading periods, teachers have experienced as much as 10 minute delays in refreshing pages,” he said. “We continue to increase network activity, but have not adequately upgraded the underlying infrastructure to support the increased activity.”
The board agreed to enter into a contract with AT&T to upgrade the network. Construction costs for the project are projected to reach nearly $68,000. However, federal “E-Rate” funding allows for an 80-percent reimbursement toward the monthly service costs.
The urgency of the request was based upon the deadline to apply for the reimbursement funding. The deadline to enter into a contract and apply for funding was Feb. 15.
During an executive session, the board gave Hall”s performance review and deliberated his contract with the district. After executive session, the board announced that the performance review was complete, but the board opted not to take action toward renewing Hall”s existing three-year contract.


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