Board Briefs
News from the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees

Summary of Meeting

Board Briefs Aug. 25, 2014

Board of Trustees Regular Meeting Agenda

Board Agenda:
Spring Branch ISD’s first day of school on Monday, August 25, resulted in an initial headcount of 33,624 students. Total enrollment is projected to increase this year to 35,800 students.

Financial Advisory Committee (FAC)

The Financial Advisory Committee’s recommendations were shared and discussed at this Board meeting. During an Aug. 18 Board Workshop meeting, Committee Chairman Warren Matthews summarized FAC’s activities and recommendations for Trustees.

The Board approved the formation of a special committee that included parents and community members during its May regular meeting. Earlier, SBISD Superintendent of Schools Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed.D., led several public meetings to talk about the detrimental impact to SBISD finances of the state’s present school finance model and to share insights and concerns on the district’s ability to remain competitive in the years ahead. 

The Committee evaluated SBISD’s current and projected budgets, reviewed and assessed related financial information, and made best recommendations to assure that community expectations in the future are met for its schools, students and educators.

The Financial Advisory Committee met three times in June. In addition, an online survey was created to allow committee members to express confidential views and gain opinion on a wide variety of identified funding and revenue options.

Survey options ranged from doing nothing at all to tax increases ranging from 2 cents up to 13 cents. Other options included expense reductions or added reductions in staffing and programs.

FAC Findings and Recommendations

The Financial Advisory Committee found that significant problems and issues exist in the current process and method of funding public education by the State of Texas, resulting in significant financial problems for SBISD. Projected district expenses exceed current and projected revenues.

The FAC recommends that action be taken to improve the financial condition and outlook for SBISD. A “do nothing” approach to SBISD’s future finances is not acceptable, the committee also found.

With a strong aversion by the 28-member committee to pursue further cuts in district staffing or program offerings, and a strong desire for SBISD to remain competitive with other local school districts, the FAC committee found broad-based support for a moderate increase in Maintenance and Operating (M&O) tax rate in the range of $.02-$.04 (2 to 4 cents) per $100 of valuation. Committee members found this to be warranted, reasonable and justified at the present time.

Beyond this range, there was little committee support for a greater increase due to the state’s recapture of taxes (Robin Hood) that are above $.02 (2cents), and due to uncertainties in state legislative and pending judicial actions. (In fact, State District Judge John Dietz reaffirmed his 2013 ruling on Aug. 28 that Texas’ current school finance system is unconstitutional, putting new pressure on the Texas Legislature to make reforms during its new session that begins in January 2015.

The FAC also recommended that the SBISD administration and Board of Trustees identify operating cost reductions and non-tax revenue opportunities to generate annual combined savings of $1.5 million or more. The committee identified a variety of savings and revenue opportunities that range from initiatives to reduce energy usage and utilities expense to an evaluation of “shared services” opportunities in the district.

Board Discussion and New Information

At the Aug. 25 meeting, Superintendent Klussmann and Trustees discussed the timing of a Tax Ratification Election (TRE), should one be authorized. While no decisions were made, calendar options for any election during the remaining months of 2014 were described as challenging.

In addition, Finance Associate Superintendent Karen Wilson reported that an updated estimate of property values shows that higher estimated revenues may impact SBISD favorably, offsetting a significant portion of the current district budget gap of $8.5 million.

Trustees were polled on their individual views. A consensus emerged that waiting to take action until early next year was desirable. Key reasons include the reconvening in January 2015 of the Texas Legislature, which sets state funding for education, as well as the difficulties involved in calling and scheduling an election this fall. 

Most Trustees agree that the administration should seek expense savings in the system, and also that SBISD should deploy a communications campaign to help educate the community about an expected budget decision.

Superintendent Klussmann and Trustees also agreed that ongoing conversations are needed about Spring Branch’s competitiveness in relation to surrounding school districts on key indicators like class sizes and teacher salaries, among others, and on what competitiveness means to the SBISD community. 

Resources & Links:

In other action:

  • Approved Consent Agenda action items and contract awards.
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